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Dogged by protestors, Trudeau makes campaign stop in Sudbury

Liberal leader spoke at University of Sudbury, says his party’s plan will include $80M in Francophone post-secondary funding

Protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinations (among other issues) have dogged Liberal leader Justin Trudeau across the country during this federal election, and his Aug. 31 stop in Sudbury was no different.

Trudeau spoke about federal funding for Francophone post-secondary education at an event held on the balcony at the University of Sudbury on the Laurentian University campus, while protesters chanted in the background.

Trudeau said he called an election because he believes that the people of Canada can’t wait any longer to have their say about the future.  

The Liberal leader, who did not take questions from reporters during the Sudbury event, announced a re-elected Liberal government would provide $80 million per year in funding for “les institutions postsecondaire en milieu linguistique minoritaire.” 

The announcement, which Trudeau made in French, will support post-secondary institutions that offer a minority-language education. 

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also held a campaign event at the University of Sudbury on Saturday.

Laurentian University has been the centre of controversy this year after declaring insolvency in the winter and entering court-supervised restructuring.

As part of its restructuring, Laurentian severed ties with its federated universities this spring: the University of Sudbury, along with Thorneloe and Huntington universities. Laurentian also made massive cuts to its staff and programs in the spring.

For its part, the University of Sudbury is working with the Franco-Ontarian community to transform itself into a Francophone institution, but has yet to receive the necessary government approval.

Nickel Belt Liberal incumbent candidate Marc Serré, who was present at the event along with Sudbury candidate Viviane Lapointe, said that the future of education in Sudbury is one that is balanced. 

“I want a strong Anglophone Laurentian University,” said Serré. “And I want a Université de Sudbury, en français.” 

Serré said Trudeau’s campaign announcement would do just that. 

While Trudeau did speak about other issues at the event, such as climate change and the Liberal plan for $10-a-day child care, he also spoke clearly on the subject of vaccinations, and addressed the people chanting “Trudeau Must Go” just below him. 

A small group of around 20 protesters had bloomed to 30 or more by the time the Liberal leader began to speak. One spoke into a megaphone and the others shouted in unison. 

Their messaging was directed at Trudeau in some cases, and in others, the signs read “Media is Lying” and “Stand together for Freedom.” The protestors shouted “Medical Apartheid,” and when approached to take photos, one protestor yelled that vaccine requirements are comparable to “the holocaust.” 

With the protesters’ voices echoing in the background, Trudeau made a direct statement. He pointed in the direction of the protestors — they could not be seen from the balcony, only heard — and said, “These people are putting us all at risk.”

He said that everyone is “entitled to their opinion,” unless they are putting others at risk. “Those folks out there shouting tonight, they’re wrong,” said Trudeau. “They are wrong about how we get through this pandemic.” 

And more than being wrong, Trudeau said, they are putting others at risk. “They are putting, at risk, their own kids, and they are putting, at risk, our kids.” 

Trudeau said that is why the federal government has put in place an offer to fund the vaccination certification they feel is necessary to “move forward.”  

Trudeau also had a message for Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole regarding the party’s perceived encouragement of those who are considered “anti-vaxxers.”

“You need to condemn them, and you need to correct them,” he said.