Dealing with hecklers and protesters is a significant part of being a politician – in any country. You can’t get angry or lose your cool, unless it’s absolutely warranted, which is a highly rare occurrence.
On February 2, 2018, Prime Minister of Canada Justin P.J. Trudeau held a town hall in Nanaimo, BC, Canada. In this town hall, he discussed the very important issue of oil pipelines (near major water sources), and that’s when it all went to hell. A scattered group of protesters began heckling the PM. They were clearly upset with his position on Big Oil. “Really? REALLY? Will you please respect the people in this room?” Trudeau responded to one heckler in particular.
The heckler, along with others, were escorted out of the venue by police. I’ve appreciated that the PM has a history as a schoolteacher, but he crossed the line here. A political forum isn’t a classroom. And he’s not the teacher. Clearly, this wasn’t a forum. It was a political photo opportunity for the prime minister. I’ve been easy on him for his photo ops in the past, but shutting down freedom of speech because someone doesn’t agree with him is Trump-like and fascist. Can’t do it, Mr. Prime Minister.
See video below, courtesy of the CBC News Network:
By contrast, on September 6, 2017, a white heckler got into the face of Sikh NDP leader Jagmeet Singh during a town hall. Instead of calling for the protester, who mistakenly believed Mr. Singh was Muslim, to be removed, he called on the audience who attended to show her “love and respect.”
“We’re not intimidated by hatefulness,” he added.
Video below, courtesy of The Globe and Mail.
I’m not endorsing either politician here. My intention is to draw a contrast generally between how a non-violent heckler or protester is supposed to be dealt with and how not to deal with one. In neither situation was the politician in any physical danger.
Mr. Prime Minister, Canadians aren’t students in your classroom. I appreciate your many talents that stem from your teaching experience. But this isn’t one of them. But we all make mistakes. Apologize, strive to do better and move on.
As for Mr. Singh, that’s how you respect Canadians, even the ones who disagree with you and especially the ones who are ignorant. You don’t educate people by kicking them out of the process. That’s not how a democracy works.
I am undecided on who I am voting for in the next Canadian Federal Election, but score one for Jagmeet Singh, who handled a tough situation where he could have gone Trudeau and flipped out. But instead he showed respect for other political positions, even uninformed ones.