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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons about the implementation of the Emergencies Act as truckers and supporters continue to protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa on Feb. 17.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

Justin Trudeau helped bring on this day.

The Prime Minister must accept much of the responsibility for one of the largest police operations in Canadian history, launched Friday, to break up a weeks-long occupation of Ottawa’s downtown core by protesters.

His divisive actions over the past six months contributed to the mess: the city centre cordoned off by police; Parliament forced to suspend a sitting; the first invocation of the Emergencies Act since it was enacted; dozens of arrests.

This is on him.

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American politics is profoundly polarized. But even the assault on Capitol Hill lasted only one day. No convoys of truckers have converged on the District of Columbia. And if they do, they will simply be Americans imitating Canadians.

Brexit roiled British politics for years. But London was never occupied. Police and politicians in Europe grappled with protests before and during the pandemic. But the core of Paris was not shut down for weeks at a time. Or Berlin. Or Rome, though there is a copycat demonstration under way in Wellington, New Zealand.

This protest, which requires a massive police response to disperse, is uniquely Canadian. Our leaders bear the responsibility for that, Justin Trudeau above all.

The vast majority of us chose to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But millions did not. Their refusal was foolish and they had to be constrained to protect public health. Vaccine mandates in many workplaces and when travelling make sense.

But other political leaders managed to avoid severe protests from those opposed to pandemic measures. François Legault in Quebec, Doug Ford in Ontario, Scott Moe in Saskatchewan, John Horgan in B.C. and other premiers governed through the crisis without inciting mass hatred. Mr. Horgan and Mr. Moe won re-election during the pandemic; Mr. Ford and Mr. Legault may well this year.

Mr. Trudeau won an election too. (though he lost the popular vote, again). But during the campaign, he made vaccine mandates an issue, knowing it would discomfit the Conservatives. Since then, he has called mandate opponents misogynists and racists, a fringe minority with unacceptable views. Those who are demonized demonize back.

Turning opponents of pandemic restrictions into the Other helped Justin Trudeau get re-elected. The occupation is the fallout.

He continues to stoke polarization, even now. In the House this week, Mr. Trudeau accused Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, a descendent of Holocaust survivors, of standing with “people who wave swastikas.” Did he apologize? Are you kidding?

Mr. Trudeau has absolutely no tolerance for anyone who gets in his way. We saw it mere months after he was elected, when the Prime Minister elbowed an NDP MP aside during a dispute on the floor of the House.

He pressed his attorney-general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene in a criminal prosecution. Ms. Wilson-Raybould and another minister ultimately resigned in protest.

He prorogued Parliament rather than face up to questions surrounding his family’s involvement in the WE Charity.

And with tempers and nerves at a breaking point after two years of pandemic, he continues to vilify those who oppose him over mandates, knowing it will embarrass the Conservatives, however much it corrodes public discourse.

The bill’s about to come due for Trudeau’s Liberals, and it won’t be pretty

Pierre Trudeau made many people angry. So did Brian Mulroney. So did Stephen Harper. But none of them caused anger so dark and deep that people drove tractor trailers to Ottawa and parked them in front of Parliament, waving anti-Trudeau flags, with others joining them in support.

Of course the convoy was not spontaneous. The occupation of Ottawa was sophisticated and well-financed and included white-supremacist elements.

But if you talked and listened to people at the protest, you heard that they are deeply angry at their government, feel estranged from the rest of us, are determined to be heard.

When the Conservatives criticize Mr. Trudeau for dividing the country with his rhetoric, they are posturing. But on a fundamental level, they are also right.

When the histories of this time are written, those that are balanced will point to this government’s achievements: the effective early response to the pandemic; efforts to reduce carbon emissions; trade agreements with European, Pacific and North American nations; the huge increase in immigration.

But there will also be a chapter on the protests. Those who admire Mr. Trudeau will find it hard to read.

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