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Trudeau highlights research funding in stop at the University of Victoria

The prime minister being in town sparked a pro-Palestine protest on campus

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his way to Victoria this week, appearing at the University of Victoria to tout his government’s plans to boost funding for research and post-secondary education.

“We need to attract, develop and retain top research talent,” he said. “And this is exactly what these measures will do.”

This plan comes in the form of $4.6 billion in new funding for grants, facilities, scholarships and other student-centred affordability efforts.

The prime minister’s Friday (April 19) visit was met with a small pro-Palestine protest outside the school’s Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities complex, with shouts heard accusing Trudeau of being complicit in genocide.

Trudeau did address the situation in the Middle East while answering questions from reporters, denouncing the recent Iranian rocket attacks on Israel, while calling for a de-escalation of hostilities.

“We strongly condemn the absolutely irresponsible attack by Iran,” he said. “That is absolutely the wrong thing to see in the region.”

Trudeau went on to call for a two-state solution.

“A peaceful, secure, democratic Israel living alongside a peaceful, secure, democratic Palestinian state,” he said. “That is what Canada has always fought for.”

Asked what they were trying to accomplish, several protesters said they want the university to withdraw any investments it may have in Israel. No person in the protest group would give their names or speak in any more depth on the record about their goals.

As Trudeau walked out of the building and momentarily came into view, the protesters upped the rhetoric and began shouting profanities at the prime minister, though they otherwise remained peaceful and stayed clear of the line of police between them and the building.

Standing across the road watching the scene unfold, UVic student Alex Badzio-George was unimpressed by the protesters.

“They just want to get mad at something,” he said, adding that he is aware of Jewish student groups at the school who have been harassed since the conflict broke out in Gaza.

“There seems to be a lot of hate against Jewish students on campus,” he said.

Asked if he supported Trudeau, Badzio-George said he is undecided as of yet, and that the prime minister needs to do some work to solve issues affecting him such as affordability and housing.

“Hopefully he announces something good for students,” he said. “I’m moving out of the dorms soon, so I’ll have to start looking in the fall for a new place and it’s really expensive.”

Trudeau had an answer aimed at people like Badzio-George.

The plan includes an increase in the housing allowances for the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program, upping student aid for approximately 79,000 students each year.

“Which is particularly pertinent in areas where we know housing is particularly expensive, like Victoria,” Trudeau said.

He used Friday’s announcement to link the added research money with other affordability measures aimed at younger people.

“This is what we did this week when we released our budget, we shared our plan to create fairness for every generation, especially Millennials and Gen Z,” Trudeau said.

The budget includes a plan to “unlock” more housing development by building affordable apartments on federal property. This could involve places ranging from unused federal office space to property owned by the military or Canada Post.

He would not commit to whether this plan includes any property in Greater Victoria.

What he did say is aimed at Victoria is the federal government’s push to change the way zoning and density rules are done to encourage more development “all across the municipal territory.”

Trudeau is scheduled to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Saturday to discuss support for Ukraine and transatlantic security. The prime minister has not announced any planned public events during his trip to Greater Victoria.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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