In their own words: political leaders in Canada weigh in on Trump’s response to U.S. protests

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In their own words: political leaders in Canada weigh in on Trump's response to U.S. protests

Canadian political leaders are weighing in on U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of anti-racism protests sweeping across the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement.

While most leaders were reluctant to single out Trump by name, both Nova Scotia’s premier and Ottawa’s mayor had plenty to say about behaviour that they described as “offensive” and “disgraceful.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Asked about U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the use of military force against protestors in the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paused for 21 seconds before saying “we all watch in horror and consternation.” He did not comment on Trump. 2:59

Trudeau’s answer to a question about Trump’s decision to have protesters moved with tear gas and riot police — so he could have his picture taken outside a church — has been talked about more for what he didn’t say than for what he did say.

The prime minister took 21 seconds to think before delivering an answer that focused on the discrimination faced by people of colour in Canada.

When pressed further to respond to Trump’s threat to call in the military into deal with protesters, the prime minister said his focus was on Canadians, not United States domestic politics.

“My job as a Canadian prime minister is to stand up for Canadians, to stand up for our interests, to stand up for our values,” he said. “That is what have done from the very beginning, that is what I will continue to do.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

Asked why the government won’t criticize U.S. President Donald Trump by name over his threats to use the army against protesters, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland avoided talking about the president and said she’s worried about “Canadian complacency” regarding anti-black racism. 2:09

The deputy prime minister followed Trudeau’s position closely, noting that Canada has its own problems with anti-black racism and unconscious bias.

“What I am concerned about, actually, is Canadian complacency. I think that it’s really, really important for us to set our own house in order and for us to really be aware of the pain that anti-black racism causes here in our own country,” she said.

“We as Canadians, all of us, need to take this very traumatic moment for many people in the world as an opportunity to look at what we are doing in Canada and to work hard to do better.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford weighs in on the violent protests that have swept the United States after George Floyd died at the hands of law enforcement. 1:22

Ford also avoided directly criticizing how the United States’ leadership has handled the protests, but he did say that he is glad to live in a country that doesn’t suffer from the same racial divisions and systemic racism seen in the U.S.

“They have their issues in the U.S. and they have to fix their issues, but it’s like night and day compared to Canada,” Ford said. “I’m proud to be Canadian. I’m proud to be the premier of Ontario.

“Thank God that we’re different than the United States. We don’t have the systemic, deep roots they’ve had for years … The difference between the U.S. and Canada, for the most part, for the most part — we get along.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil 

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil weighs in on the quality of political leadership in the United States amid wide-spread violent protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. 0:23

McNeil offered a less diplomatic comment when speaking about Floyd’s death and the Trump administration’s response to the protests that followed.

“When you watch what’s happened south of the border, where a black American was killed at the hands of law enforcement, you understand the outrage and hurt and anger that people are feeling,” he said. 

“Quite frankly, the political response in the United States has been offensive … to the world.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson weighs in on the Trump administration’s response to the anti-racism protests that have swept across the United States 0:42

Watson offered what may have been some of the sharpest criticism of the Trump administration coming from a Canadian politician — singling out the president by name and calling his behaviour throughout the crisis “disgraceful.”

“I think it was disgraceful. Clearing out peaceful protesters so he could have a photo-op holding a Bible,” said Watson. 

“Presidents and leaders of organizations should be calming the waters and instill a sense of hope, and not [creating] greater chaos. What we’ve seen in the United States is both sad and remarkable but unfortunately, with this president, somewhat predictable.

“He seems to like to take gas and throw it on the fire.”

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