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Canada: anti-vaxxers hit Justin Trudeau with a handful of gravel | Justin Trudeau

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Justin Trudeau has been hit by a handful of gravel as anti-vaccination protesters targeted the Canadian prime minister’s campaign for re-election.

A CTV camera captured what appears to be white gravel hitting Trudeau and one of his bodyguards as he walked toward his campaign bus in London, Ontario. The Liberals cancelled an event late last month because of safety concerns linked to anti-vax protesters.

Trudeau played down the incident, later saying he may have been hit on the shoulder and adding that once he had pumpkin seeds thrown at him.

Earlier on Monday, Trudeau had assailed Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s opposition to vaccine mandates, including for his own candidates, and called the hecklers “angry mobs” of anti-vaxxers.

“Erin O’Toole is at least taking some of his cues from [the anti-vax crowd],” Trudeau said.

About 74% of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, but a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is currently building, mostly among the unvaccinated.

Trudeau, 49, also criticised O’Toole on Monday for waffling on gun control as the campaign enters its final stretch before the 20 September election, with the Liberals and Conservatives running virtually neck-and-neck in the polls.

O’Toole on Sunday scrapped a campaign promise to eliminate a ban on some assault weapons, a sensitive issue in Canada after several mass shootings in recent years. Trudeau sought to capitalise on his opponent’s shift with just two weeks left to reverse his fortunes.

O’Toole “will say anything to try and get elected”, Trudeau told supporters at a campaign event in southern Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. “That’s not leadership. That’s not integrity.”

Speaking in Ottawa, O’Toole refused to say how many of his candidates had not been inoculated. He has said those who are not vaccinated must be tested daily.

“Our approach, with respect to vaccinations, is we try and encourage and inform and work with people, but we will respect their personal health decisions,” O’Toole said.

Liberal strategists have said the crucial period of the campaign starts after Labor Day because Canadians have been more focused until now on their summer vacations than the election.

There are two debates this week, one in French and one in English, the only occasions left in which all the candidates will face one another on national television before the vote.

A rolling Nanos Research survey of 1,200 people for CTV on Monday put the Liberals at 34.1% and the Conservatives at 32%, a reversal from a day earlier when the Liberals were at 33.4% and the Conservatives 34.9%.

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The Groucho

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