Trudeau Holds Firm On Accusing Quebec Heckler Of Racist Comments

Althia Raj
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses local Liberals and Liberal MPs from the South Shore of Montreal for a summer corn roast in Sabrevois, Que., on Aug. 16, 2018.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered no apologies Monday for saying a woman's shouts at a party corn roast were racist.

The Liberals will not hesitate to call out "extreme populism" and "half facts" as it prepares to fight the next election, he said.

"I think Canadians deserve to know that they have a prime minister that will always underline when these dangerous tactics are used in politics."

Last Thursday, Trudeau spoke at a campaign-style event in Sabrevois, Que., where a woman repeatedly screamed at him, demanding to know whether he would be returning "the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants."

Watch the exchange:


The man next to her also kept interrupting the prime minister's remarks to yell: "We are not in Mohawk territory."

Trudeau told the woman, from the stage, that her "intolerance" had no place among the crowd that night. He told the man his "anti-aboriginal" comments were "not very nice" and "not very polite."

The woman continued to scream at him and Trudeau kept denouncing her comments, to the cheers of the crowd. When he left the stage, she beelines for prime minister and asked him if he is "intolerant towards old-stock Quebecers?"

He responded: "Madame, your racism has no place here."

(Read a full transcript of the incident at the end of this story.)

Conservatives latched onto the comments, and suggested Trudeau had called an elderly pensioner racist. (The woman appears to be in her mid-50s.)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel took to Twitter to suggest the woman was simply asking the same questions the Tories ask in question period and being labelled "intolerant" for asking them.



By calling people intolerant, Rempel said, the prime minister was "putting the sustainability of Canadian pluralism at risk.

"In this video, his response to this woman is the same response he gives to me. That is irresponsible."

Tory MP Pierre Paul-Hus tweeted that the woman's question was simple. "It had nothing to do with intolerance and racism," he wrote in French.

Ontario's minister responsible for immigration, Lisa MacLeod, said Trudeau's actions were "debasing the debate" around irregular border crossers.


Conservative Sen. Linda Frum tweeted that the woman who confronted Trudeau on illegal border crossings was a "poor spokesperson for any issue," but it didn't alter the fact that Canadians are upset with the prime minister for his handling of, what she called, "the border crisis that he created."

"AND those of us who hold this legitimate political opinion do not appreciate being labelled Intolerant and Racist by our divisive Prime Minister."

PM bemoans 'rise of extreme populism'

On Monday, Trudeau was given an opportunity to retract his words. He chose instead to offer a warning sign to his political opponents that he would not hesitate to call out what he deems to be "half-truths" and "torquing up fears."

"Not just because it is a problem for us, but because it is a dangerous path for any democracy to be on," he said.

"One of the things that we are facing in the world right now is a rise of extreme populism, of the politics of fear, of division, of a kind of polarization that has short-term political advantages in some cases but ends up creating fault lines between communities," he said.

Canada, which has been diverse since its very origins, needs to be "very vigilant," the prime minister said.

U.S. media response

The U.S. media, faced with a polarizing figure in the White House, has embraced Trudeau's comments with glowing affection.

"Trudeau shuts down heckler: 'Racism has no place' in Canada," reads the headline in the Washington, D.C., paper The Hill.

The website "Bustle" called the video "pretty powerful" and praised Trudeau for constantly denouncing and fighting racism.

This is a recap of Trudeau's interaction with the heckler based on two video feeds, one from CTV and another from someone on Facebook who was standing next to the woman:

"We are asking you for $146 million to Quebecers that you gave to illegal immigrants," a woman screams out.


A man next to her shouts: "We are not in Mohawk territory. We are not in Mohawk territory."


"One of the important things, Madame, in politics, is listening. My friends, it is listening that counts. We are dialoguing," the PM says from his platform, microphone in hand.


"Well, you are not responding to me! Answer me."


"You are trying to say things that are anti-aboriginal, mister. That is not very nice, that is not very polite. We are here to exchange, to dialogue, I'm very excited to listen to you, on condition that you listen to me, Madame," he says, his arm extended. "You have something to say, Madame? Go ahead."


"Answer me. I would like to know when you are going to return to us the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants," she says, as she or someone next to her whistles.


"Madame."


"It's us that paid for that."


"This intolerance with regards to immigrants has no place in Canada," the PM says, as the crowd around screams in support. "This intolerance with regards to diversity. You do not have your place here. Madame, Canada was built on immigration waves who were welcomed by the First Nations, who taught us how to build a strong society,"


"Wait. Wait. Trudeau! Trudeau!" the woman waves her hands in the air, trying to get his attention.


"And people who come here from generations to generations to build stronger communities, that is what makes us stronger as a country," the PM says.


A member of the RCMP approaches the woman, who looks to be in her mid-50s, and says: "Are you making threats?"


On stage, as the sun is setting, Trudeau is pumped from the crowd's enthusiasm. He is now shouting in his microphone: "And, Madame, your intolerance has no place here!" The crowd cheers. He adds: "Madame, your intolerance has no place among us tonight."


She waves her arms in the air.


Trudeau tells the crowd: "You have to know that our strength is to come together and not to plant fear. Not to plant intolerance, Madame."


It's difficult to make out what the prime minister is saying and what the woman is shouting because the man next to her keeps repeating: "We are not in Mohawk territory. We are not in Mohawk territory!"


"Are you intolerant towards old-stock Quebecers?" the woman asks Trudeau as he exits the stage.


The term she uses in French is "Québécois de souche," a controversial ethnic expression.


As the prime minister wades into the crowd to shake hands. She makes a beeline for for him and repeatedly screams: "Are you intolerant towards old-stock Quebecers? Are you intolerant towards old-stock Quebecers?"


The prime minister bends down and addresses her directly: "Madame, your racism has no place here, Madame. Your racism has no place here."


"Answer me!," she says. He repeats: "Madame. Your racism has no place here." And walks away.


Later the woman is approached by two plainclothes police officers, one of whom grabs her arm. She screams to be let go and accuses the RCMP officer of giving her a bruise.


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