Arrested Canadian leader's stark warning to US on big government: 'You cannot take your freedoms for granted'

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People's Party of Canada, predicted 'draconian' measures would make their way to the US if Americans didn't fight back

Leader of the People's Party of Canada (PPC) and former member of the Canadian Parliament Maxime Bernier issued a stark warning to Americans concerning the "massive overreach" of government in implementing restrictions on the everyday lives of citizens in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking with Fox News Digital, Bernier told a cautionary tale of his arrest while attempting to speak out against the "authoritarian" Canadian government headed by Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Justin Trudeau. He sought to warn those in the U.S. to not take their freedoms for granted, lest they end up with the same "draconian" measures already governing his home country.

When asked about what some have described as a heavy-handed response by governments of countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand in attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Bernier detailed restrictions he and his fellow Québécois were forced to endure throughout the height of the pandemic, including curfews between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., stay-at-home orders and an economic lockdown. 

Leader of the People's Party Canada Maxime Bernier speaks to Fox News' Brandon Gillespie about coronavirus restrictions across Canada.

Leader of the People's Party Canada Maxime Bernier speaks to Fox News' Brandon Gillespie about coronavirus restrictions across Canada. (Brandon Gillespie)

"Now, after more than a year-and-a-half, it's still the same," the 58-year-old Bernier said before stating he chose not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus because he felt his chances of dying from it were low. "Here in Quebec right now you have a vaccine passport. So for me … I cannot participate in civil society, I cannot go to a restaurant, I cannot go to a baseball game or hockey game." 

"It's discrimination that's happening right now in Quebec. It's happening also in Ontario, in B.C., in Manitoba," he added, stating that the implementation of the passport requirements to travel would begin at the end of October. "The vaccine passport is mandatory. And for me, I won't be able to travel across the country inside Canada, by plane or by train because I don't have the vaccine passport."

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According to Travelweek, a Canadian travel news outlet, the Canadian government's planned rollout of a national vaccine passport is planned for the fall, but may be delayed past October.

Bernier told the story of his June arrest in the central Canadian province of Manitoba as he attempted to hold rallies against coronavirus restrictions across the country.

He claimed that because the PPC was the only political party in Canada speaking out against coronavirus restrictions, he felt it necessary to begin campaigning before the start of the official campaign season ahead of September's federal election, which lasts between 36 to 50 days before election day. 

People's Party of Canada (PPC) supporters protest after leader Maxime Bernier was not invited to the two federal election debates held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

People's Party of Canada (PPC) supporters protest after leader Maxime Bernier was not invited to the two federal election debates held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle (REUTERS/Patrick Doyle)

"I was arrested, handcuffed, and put in jail for a non-crime after a political gathering for about 12 hours," Bernier said. "That was political repression, and the government in Manitoba didn't want me to do a rally over there in Winnipeg and speak against these draconian measures."  

He stated that at the time the number of people allowed to meet in the parks where his rallies were held was limited, leading to his gathering breaking the imposed rule. The rule was lifted a few weeks following his arrest.

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"I was doing a meeting in a park because the rules were that we were not able to have any meeting inside, and I was arrested because we were more than five persons in a park social distancing outside on a nice summer day," Bernier said. "I was the only one who received a ticket and the only one who was put in jail for that and not the other people there. So that's why I said it was political repression."

Bernier said that he was due to be in court next month, but that his court date had already been delayed more than once. He claimed that the reason for the delay was because "the government knows that he will win," and the reason he was cited was unconstitutional.

People's Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier speaks after the announcement of federal election results in Beauceville, Quebec, Canada October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

People's Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier speaks after the announcement of federal election results in Beauceville, Quebec, Canada October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

He also expressed concern over how he would travel to his court date considering he would be unable to take a train or plane within Canada once the government implements a national vaccine passport requirement.

"I don't know what will happen. It's my right as a politician to be able to travel and meet people, and that's what I want to do. So that will be a little bit challenging for me if that rule is in place. It would be a huge discrimination," he said.

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Bernier explained that his party's focus in September's federal election was to oppose restrictions like lockdowns and vaccine passports because it amounted to "discrimination" and "a kind of segregation." 

The Liberal Party remained the governing party, and Trudeau the Prime Minister, with 32.6% of the vote, but Bernier was quick to point out gains made by the PPC. The party, which was formed in 2018, went from 1.6% of the vote in the 2019 election to 4.9% this year, overtaking the much older Green Party at 2.3%. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a bi-weekly news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a bi-weekly news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

He cited his message of anti-authoritarianism resonating with Canadians and convincing them to turn away from the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) as reasons for the gains. He also cited a large number of people turning out to vote who didn't normally show up to the polls. 

Bernier placed any potential for future success on the ability to win the battle of public opinion when it comes to how Canadians view the government's restrictions. He explained there was majority support for the Liberal government's restrictions amongst the people, and admitted it would take convincing the public that the best idea was to have a freer country before they would see any stop to their implementation.

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Bernier claimed Canadian media had not been neutral when it came to covering the government's efforts to implement coronavirus restrictions, and that they basically amounted to "propaganda" coming from the government. 

"The media was not neutral. They didn't show the other point of view. It was very difficult for me as the leader of a national party to be in the mainstream national media because they didn't like what I was saying," he said. "The media was not fair and they had only one point of view, and they didn't want to hear the other point of view, and they were not giving us any visibility."

He supported his argument by referencing the Liberal government's CA$600 million bailout of "struggling media outlets" in 2019, as well as their providing of CA$1.2 billion for the government-funded Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).

Supporters of the right-wing People's Party of Canada (PPC) attend a protest rally outside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Supporters of the right-wing People's Party of Canada (PPC) attend a protest rally outside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Chris Helgren (REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

Bernier turned to the U.S. and called on Americans to fight for their rights and to follow the example of those standing up against the Biden administration's implementation of a vaccine mandate. 

"I believe in America. Like the debate in Canada right now, you cannot take your freedoms for granted anymore in America. My advice would be to fight," he said. "All these measures are not constitutional, against your rights and your freedoms, and I hope that you'll fight also. We need to do that." 

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"We are in the same boat. We have authoritarian governments in Canada right now with Trudeau, and Biden is going in the same direction for you in the U.S. What happened in Canada with the vaccine passport, mandatory vaccine passports in Quebec, in Ontario and in other provinces, can also happen in different states," Bernier added. "Just fight and protest and write to your representative. We need to to stand up and speak out for what we believe."