PM’s speech lauds party and supporters for accomplishments while protestors clash outside

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the crowd at a Liberal Party fundraiser held at St. Lawrence College on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Photo by Michelle Allan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Kingston’s St. Lawrence College yesterday for Liberal party fundraiser.

Inside the conference room, guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The building’s fire alarm went off twice while attendees were waiting for the PM to take the stage. Just before 8 p.m., The Tragically Hip’s Rob Baker introduced Trudeau following a brief welcome from Kingston & the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen.

Trudeau began his address by praising the ability of Canadians and the government to “do better” when looking at “the politics of division and negativity.” He stressed the value of diversity, both “in backgrounds, in stories, in religions, in origins, in languages,” and in “diversity of ideas and perspectives.”

The PM told the crowd at the $400/ticket event that the “ability to actually listen to each other, to respect each other’s viewpoints and other’s solutions, and learn from each other, and not automatically say ‘my way is the best way’ and actually engage in thoughtful conversations and debates with people who disagree with us” would set “us on the path forward in a thoughtful, grounded way that gives us a better opportunity to solve these challenges.”

This diversity of ideas and perspectives was in full force outside the conference room, where multiple groups protestors assembled. Groups present included a gathering of people with anti-pipeline and indigenous rights signs, protestors in yellow vests, members of the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, and The Public Service Alliance of Canada union representing postal workers and all other federal public employees.

A protestor outside SLC. Their sign reads, “I’m here to listen, talk & learn about important issues. Let’s discuss!” Photo by Michelle Allan.

Many protestors gathered outside the front doors of the college, but the majority made their way inside the venue, filling the hall with rally cries. Some were protesting the back to work legislation against Canada Post, while other groups were protesting Canada’s immigration policies and signing of the United Nations migration pact. Others were rallying against pipelines or counter-rallying in support of immigration.

One protestor, who asked to be identified only as Amanda, said “It’s important for a lot of us to be here for a few different reasons. Obviously, Trudeau has broken a lot of promises, has failed to protect indigenous rights, and human rights generally, as well as worker rights.”

She expressed that it was “a shame” that people “have co-opted the yellow vests” to protest immigration, but noted that “they would argue that they’re not anti immigration, that they’re just afraid of Canada’s hands being tied to UN immigration targets.”

“I’m here to very clearly state that I know that immigrants are not the reason for the problems that we’re facing in Canada. The pipelines, [and] unfettered capitalism is the problem,” she said.

Protestors with PSAC flags and posters inside SLC. Photo by Michelle Allan

The yellow vest or gilets jaune movement started in France in response to Emmanuel Macron’s planned tax hikes, and has served as inspiration for movements in Canada. The Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group’s description reads, “This group is to protest the CARBON TAX and the Treason of our country’s politicians who have the audacity to sell out OUR country’s sovereignty over to the Globalist UN and their Tyrannical policies.” The Kingston fundraiser’s details are posted with the caption, “Kingston Ontario Chapter, you know what to do.” There were many comments voicing discontent with Trudeau and the current government. Some users comments were more violent, such as one suggestion to “Light that f–ker up guys. Awesome opportunity,” and another user’s comment of “Someone bring a rope! Lol.”

While there were unconfirmed reports of two assaults occurring at St. Lawrence College that evening, it is unclear whether the involved parties had any affiliation with any of the groups present.

The events outside the conference room did not seem to disturb guests, and the PM did not address the protestors. Trudeau’s address was largely celebratory, and he listed successes such as the new NAFTA deal, ratification of CPTTP, securing private sector investors, low unemployment rates, and legalizing cannabis. Trudeau stated that “we moved forward on a range of things,” detailing progress made on pay equity legislation, national anti-poverty strategy, and restoring train service to Churchill, Manitoba “in partnership with local indigenous peoples.”

“While our opponents were busy spinning and attacking, we rolled up our sleeves” Trudeau said. Speaking to the audience, he said “We need you, as volunteers, as donors, to go knock doors, to make phone calls, and to really demonstrate the continued momentum of what we’re doing in this country, of what we’re doing here in Kingston, and what we’re doing in our positive impact around the world. These are the kind of things that I know we can do together.”

He ended the address by wishing the guests a good night and a hearty “Merry Christmas, everyone.” Guests were each allowed a photo with the Prime Minister.

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