MONTREAL — The Crown has withdrawn a charge of obstructing a peace officer against an aspiring Bloc Quebecois candidate who confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a public event last summer.
Matthieu Brien had pleaded not guilty to the charge stemming from an exchange with Trudeau during celebrations of Quebec's Fete nationale last June.
Brien's lawyer, Marc Michaud, said the charge was withdrawn Thursday after the Crown said it had no evidence to present. The acquittal came with a condition that Brien not communicate privately, either directly or indirectly, with Trudeau. Michaud said communication would be permitted in the context of legitimate political activity.
Brien announced following his arrest that he plans to seek the Bloc nomination to run against the prime minister in his Montreal riding of Papineau. He lives in the riding and unsuccessfully sought the Bloc nomination there in 2015.
He doesn't believe the Fete nationale episode will hurt his political aspirations.
"On the contrary, I think it helped me in a certain way," Brien said outside the courtroom. "By necessity, it made me known. So I thank Mr. Trudeau, I thank the police. It's thanks to them there will be a worthy adversary in Papineau."
Brien confronted the prime minister last June 23 as he was greeting citizens in a park in his riding and suggested the federal leader didn't belong there on the Quebec holiday, also known as St-Jean-Baptiste Day.
"You came to speak English to us?" Brien asked Trudeau in French. "Isn't your party next week?" he said, referring to Canada Day. Trudeau replied: "I am home."
Trudeau's security personnel removed Brien, and the charge resulted from his subsequent interaction with them.
Brien said that despite the heated words last summer, he's ready to debate Trudeau in a calm, respectful way. "Very calmly, I might add," he said. "I lost it a bit at Saint-Jean. I'm not like that the rest of the time."
A final decision on who will represent the Bloc in Papineau is expected in the spring, but Brien has already been going door-to-door. "The bar is high, this I concede," he said of his chances of defeating a sitting prime minister.