Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third town hall of his cross-country tour began with two tense standoffs with hecklers who interrupted questioners.
The first came when Trudeau was trying to answer a question from a young boy who asked the prime minister how he deals with his “haters.”
“I don’t really have to worry too much about being defined by what someone thinks of me,” Trudeau said, noting that, as a child, people would tell him that they did not like him because their parents didn’t like his father.
A woman then stood up in the crowd and started shouting about free speech, the security threat posed by Canadians who left to join ISIS and are now beginning to return home, and the decision to locate the town hall at a university.
Shortly afterward, another questioner was interrupted by a man shouting at Trudeau without the benefit of a microphone about the Canadian government persecuting him.
The RCMP surrounded the man and he eventually sat down. Not long afterwards the unruly audience member was escorted out by security after shouting about corruption and wrongdoings of the Supreme Court.
Trudeau explained that he was disturbing the event, and the man hollered “You’re disturbing me!”
The town hall at Western University is the third in a series of six town halls, and comes as Trudeau holds a two-day retreat for his cabinet in the southwestern Ontario city.
Cabinet ministers, in town for the retreat, mingled with students and other members of the audience in the packed auditorium. Outside, a long queue waited in the rain hoping for a seat.
During the first two town halls — in Lower Sackville, N.S. and Hamilton — the prime minister endured heckling and drew applause as he faced a broad range of questions on topics that covered everything from federal drug policy, to the Liberal government’s $10.5 million payment to Omar Khadr, to concerns over former ISIS fighters returning to Canada.
Trudeau was asked about the degeneration of political dialogue, and said his government’s public policy is based on informed thought and evidence over rhetoric.
“It might win elections, but it doesn’t leave society or the country any better off. And I do believe that reason will win out over time,” he said as long as it comes with passion.
Trudeau’s next town hall will be in Quebec City on Jan. 18. Later in the month, Trudeau will host town halls in Winnipeg and Edmonton, but no specific dates for those events have been released.