Nunavut senator quits Conservative caucus over support for Ottawa protests

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Published February 4, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Nunavut’s senator says he has left the Conservative caucus over its support for protests in Ottawa against vaccine mandates and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Dennis Patterson told The Canadian Press on Friday that he quit the party’s caucuses in the Senate and the House of Commons and has joined the non-partisan Canadian Senators Group. 

Patterson confirmed he is still a member of the Conservative Party, but said the caucuses’ support for the protests was “the last straw.”

“These are not caucuses that I’m any longer comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve been very disappointed not to have seen a condemnation from our leadership of the continued hostage occupation of the heart of our Canadian democracy in downtown Ottawa.”

Patterson condemned the protests and said he considers himself a moderate voice in the party.

“I’m appalled that we appear to be associated with extremists.” 

Patterson said Erin O’Toole’s ousting from the party leadership was not a factor in his decision.

He also said the Conservative party has taken an “increasingly divisive and vitriolic” approach and he will continue to speak against extremism in the party. 

“We need to shift away from that,” he said. 

Patterson called Nunavut’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in the territory “heroic and successful” and said he felt uneasy with his colleagues’ opposition to vaccine mandates and lockdowns. 

“That’s been part of my discomfort.”

is decision to leave was not a “spur of the moment thing,” said Patterson, who added he had discussed it with his colleagues in the House and the Senate before he quit. 

“I’ve been thinking deeply about it and expressing my views privately for some time without much resonance, unfortunately,” he said. 

Patterson was appointed as a Conservative senator in 2009 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022. 

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press

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