Canada’s top public servant said he’s worried someone is going to be shot during this fall’s federal political campaign and referred to a controversial convoy of protesters that was on Parliament Hill this week during his testimony at the House of Commons justice committee.
Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council, told the committee that he worries about “the rising tides of incitements to violence when people use terms like ‘treason’ and ‘traitor’ in open discourse.”
“Those are words that lead to assassination. I’m worried that somebody is going to be shot in this country this year, during the political campaign.”
Mr. Wernick’s comments come one day after the United We Roll convoy of trucks left Ottawa heading west and which saw some protesters hold signs that accused the Prime Minister of treason.
The convoy included pro-pipeline and anti-carbon-tax demonstrators, but also members of the controversial far-right group the Yellow Vests, which is known for having members that post xenophobic messages on their Facebook pages.
One member, Christopher Hayes, was found guilty in 2017 of threatening Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after posting on Facebook that the Prime Minister should be shot. Mr. Hayes was on hand for the pipeline rally in Ottawa this week and posted videos on his Facebook page, making a number of Islamophobic comments.
Former Rebel Media personality Faith Goldy also attended the rally and spoke briefly from the back of a truck, telling Indigenous counterprotesters, “If you don’t like our country, leave it.”
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, joined by a few Conservative MPs and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, also addressed the rally.
But Mr. Wernick took specific aim at Saskatchewan Senator David Tkachuk, who told the group of protesters, “I know you’ve rolled all the way here, and I’m going to ask you one more thing: I want you to roll over every Liberal left in the country.”
Mr. Wernick said it’s “totally unacceptable” for politicians to incite people to “drive trucks over people after what happened in Toronto last summer,” referring to the April van attack that killed 10 people and injured 16.
“I hope that you as parliamentarians are going to condemn that,” he said.
Mr. Tkachuk defended his comments in a statement, saying it was “a figure of speech,” insisting that he meant defeating every Liberal in the upcoming election.
“I was not advocating violence and I think everybody knows that, except those for whom it serves a purpose to interpret them otherwise; certainly the people at the rally knew what I meant.”
He said the “manufactured outrage” by the Liberals distract from the real plight of those in the oil and gas industry.
“I am not going to apologize for my remarks. The words I used may not have been as artful as I would have liked and certain individuals are happy to misinterpret them to suit their own self-interest, but I am not going to apologize for that,” Mr. Tkachuk said.