OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has accused the prime minister of hypocrisy for calling on Canadians to do more to combat racism but refusing to condemn inflammatory remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Justin Trudeau was pressed Tuesday to address how Trump has been handling escalating protests in the U.S. related to the death of a black man in police custody.
Violence has since broken out across the country, in many cases touched off by aggressive police, with deaths in several cities, widespread damage and even the media being targeted.
Trump has lashed out at the protesters, calling them thugs and anarchists. He has suggested the military be used to quash them and has appeared to advocate violence against protesters. This week, tear gas was used on protesters who were blocking Trump’s path to a photo op outside the White House.
The prime minister fell silent for several moments when a reporter asked for his views on the crisis Tuesday. He eventually said Canadians were watching in horror what was going on in the U.S., but did not mention Trump directly.
He then pivoted to acknowledging more must be done in Canada to address racism.
Trudeau’s silence was deafening, Singh said Wednesday.
“The prime minister of Canada has to call out the hatred and racism happening just south of the border and if the prime minister can’t do that how can everyday people be expected to stand up?” Singh said Wednesday.
“The prime minister should lead by example.”
Trudeau has long ducked questions calling on him to respond to statements by the U.S. president, repeating — as he did Tuesday — that Canadians expect their government to focus on them.
But Singh said that’s not acceptable.
He called Trump’s actions reprehensible, accusing the president of inflaming hatred and divisions, fuelling racism and putting people’s lives at risk.
“There are times when we have to be strategic and there are times when we have to stand up for what’s right,” he said.
“And this is one of those times you have to stand up for what’s right.”
Singh called on Trudeau to put actions behind his focus on Canadians. The Liberals could find a path through legislation to end racially motivated policing tactics and address the over-representation of visible minorities and Indigenous people in prisons, he said.
They could also move faster to sew up holes in the country’s social safety nets that create the inequalities that lead to racism.
“Those are just some of the things the government can do immediately that would go beyond the pretty words of a prime minister who says that he cares,” Singh said,
“Well, the prime minister has the power to do something about it.”
In a separate appearance, the Green party’s Elizabeth May said while it is true that Trudeau’s “pretty words” were not the same as action, they are the epitome of what is making Canada different from the United States at this time.
“Pretty words are so much better than vile language so bad that Twitter decides to put a warning that it incites violence, that Facebook employees quit because Mark Zuckerman (sic) won’t take down comments that are incendiary and those comments are from the president of the United States,” she said.
May said Trump has made everything going on in his country worse and that Canada must stop pretending the United States offers a safe place of refuge for minorities.
She repeated the Greens’ long-held stance that Canada must suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States. The deal sees both countries reject most asylum claims lodged at the land border on the grounds that both countries are safe, and so asylum seekers must seek refuge where they first arrive.
“It is clear that if you’re Muslim, if you’re black, if you’re Latina, if you’re Indigenous, the United States is not a safe country,” May said.
—With files from Mia Rabson
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press