Canada's Trudeau resumes campaigning after irate crowds disrupt rallies

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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plunged back into campaigning on Monday after unusually vocal protesters disrupted his election rallies and forced him to cancel an event.

Trudeau, whose ruling Liberals are tied in polls with their Conservative rivals ahead of the Sept. 20 vote, spoke to media in the Quebec town of Granby on Monday but did not refer to the weekend unrest.

In highly unusual scenes for Canada, demonstrators in the Ontario towns of Bolton on Friday and Cambridge on Sunday shouted death threats and screamed abuse at Trudeau, many referring to his push for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The crowd in Cambridge made his announcement on Sunday of climate change policies difficult to hear.

Trudeau's team took the rare decision to cancel a rally planned near Bolton on Friday, saying the protests could endanger public safety. A senior Trudeau aide said the Liberal leader did not plan to make changes to avoid similar confrontations.

"I know Canadians ... if you threaten them with violence and try to scare them away from what's right, we double down," Trudeau, who has been in power since 2015, said on Sunday after the protest.

Trudeau, 49, is the son of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who in the early 1980s was extremely unpopular in western Canada.

"I've never seen this intensity of anger on the campaign trail or in Canada, not when I was a kid, even with my dad visiting out West, where we did see anger," he said on Friday.

During the 1968 campaign, Trudeau's father stood his ground when Quebec separatists threw rocks and bottles at him. "It defined the man," said University of Toronto history professor emeritus Robert Bothwell.

Justin Trudeau's push for inoculations has generated the same rancor among right-wing groups as in the United States. Some demonstrators demanded Trudeau be locked up, prompting a Liberal aide to tweet, "Team Trump is out in force," referring to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Conservatives denounced the images and behaviour although some people at the Bolton protest wore shirts identifying themselves as working for a Conservative legislator.

Conservative strategist Dan Robertson suggested the Liberals, who have a minority government, might be seeking to benefit from the protests by appearing to stand firm.

"It's not terribly difficult to re-jig a tour to avoid demonstrators (and) confrontations — if you wanted to," he tweeted.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao and Cynthia Osterman)

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