In response to Justin Trudeau’s March 23 address to the European Parliament, several lawmakers came out strongly against the prime minister’s handling of the Freedom Convoy protest, comparing his actions to those of a dictatorship.
The criticism in Europe initially began around the time the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, leading to a massive police operation to clear the site of the Ottawa civil disobedience action demanding that COVID-19 restrictions be lifted.
On Feb. 22, independent Irish Senator Sharon Keogan raised the issue in the Upper House of the Irish Legislature.
“We have had calls in this House to address serious human rights abuses occurring in all places over the world,” Keogan said, noting she found it “odd” that she had heard nothing mentioned in the House of the “well-publicized, high-profile, peaceful protest being violently suppressed and dispersed by armed government forces” in Ottawa.
Keogan described the police operation to clear the Ottawa protest on Feb. 18 and 19 as using unidentifiable “armoured military figures” that included an officer on horseback trampling a disabled woman.
“It sounds like something you would see from Russia or actions which we condemn in Hungary or Poland but instead it is happening in the supposedly liberal democracy of Canada and so no condemnation has been forthcoming,” she said.
Keogan criticized the first-time use of Canada’s 1988 Emergencies Act to not only disperse protesters but to also to freeze bank accounts without a court order.
“These are people who committed no crime, who have not been convicted lawfully in court but who the government decided to punish anyway because they might have been connected with a protest that was inconvenient to the government,” she said.
The Irish senator then called upon the leader of the upper house to write to the Canadian ambassador to Ireland, Nancy Smyth, to condemn the “excessive force” and “overreach” of the Trudeau government. She concluded by stating that, “Authoritarianism is a threat to democracy, no matter whose foot the boot is on.”
Conservative Finnish politician and Member of European Parliament (MEP) Laura Huhtasaari was also critical of Trudeau’s actions in suppressing peaceful Freedom Convoy protesters, True North reported on March 9. Huhtasaari wrote to Josep Borell Fontelles, vice-president of the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, asking the EU to clarify where it stands on the matter.
Like Keogan, she raised previous “strongly worded admonitions” by the European Commission regarding Hungary and Poland and asked if there would be a similar condemnation of Canada. In 2021, the commission accused Hungary and Poland of eroding the rule of law.
“Does the Commission or the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy intend to condemn the measures used by Canada against peaceful protest in the Canadian convoy demonstration, and what is the EU’s position on the Canadian Government’s actions against peaceful protest?” Huhtasaari wrote to Fontelles.
On March 23, Croatian independent MEP Mislav Kolakusic’s strongly worded reply to Trudeau’s speech made waves.
As of March 25, the video of his response had been viewed 1.5 million times and garnered over 50,000 likes on Twitter.
Referencing the police action to clear the Ottawa protest and the freezing of bank accounts of participants, Kolakusic said: “To you [Trudeau], these may be liberal methods. For many citizens of the world, it is a dictatorship of the worst kind.”
At least four other MEPs criticized Trudeau during his visit, including Romanian MEP Cristian Terhes from EP’s European Conservatives and Reformists Group and the centre-right Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party, who said he chose to be absent from Parliament when Trudeau spoke. He instead issued a letter accusing Trudeau and other world leaders of abandoning true western values in favour of a worldview he called “neo-Marxist tyranny pretending to be progressivism.”
Virginie Joron of the Identity and Democracy Group did not speak publicly, but she posted a video of herself on Twitter inside the European Parliament as Trudeau was about to speak while wearing a T-shirt depicting a truck and Canadian and U.S. flags with “Truckers Freedom Convoy” printed on it.
“I’m paying homage to all those who rose against [Trudeau’s] freedom-killing policy,” she wrote.
Trudeau’s speech before the European Parliament revolved around criticizing populism—to which he linked the Freedom Convoy—as well as denouncing Russia and its invasion of Ukraine, and making a case for defending democracy.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on the values that form the pillars of all democracies, we have a responsibility to make the case to people about why these values matter so much, not just to Ukrainians,” he said.