Prime Minister Stephen Harper sharply criticized new Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for trying "to rationalize or make excuses" for whoever was responsible for the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured over 100 people.
Harper, who was commenting from London where he attended the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher this morning, took issue with Trudeau suggesting during a media interview that "the root causes" of the motivation for the bombing should be examined.
The right way to respond Harper said is to "condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators you deal with them as harshly as possible. And that's what this government would do if ever faced with such actions."
Harper had not been asked specifically about Trudeau's remarks. But he made it clear he wanted to comment on an interview that CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge did with Trudeau, which aired Tuesday night on The National. In the interview, Mansbridge asked Trudeau what he would do if he were prime minister on the day the bombings occurred.
Trudeau replied, after saying he would offer help and condolences, that "over the coming days" it would be necessary to "look at root causes." He continued, "We don't know if it was terrorism, or a single crazy, or a domestic issue or a foreign issue — all those questions. But there is no question that this happened because of someone who feels completely excluded, someone who feels completely at war with innocence, at war with society."
Trudeau finished by saying that it was important not to "marginalize people even further who already feel like they are enemies of society rather than people who have hope for the future."
Trudeau spoke to Mansbridge on Monday, only two hours after the news of the Boston bombing. His reply to Mansbridge's query about what he would do was made an hour before the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement. Trudeau's initial remarks about condolences and an offer to help were the same as Harper's reaction, although Trudeau went on to talk about possible causes.
On Wednesday, after a meeting with his caucus, Trudeau clarified his remarks when asked by a reporter what he meant by "root causes."
"Obviously, we have to make sure that as we move forward we look at creating a safe community, a safe country, a safe world for all citizens and all individuals and that happens both with security and with, with a significant commitment to peace, as highlighted in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Trudeau said.
After question period Wednesday, Trudeau went quickly to the microphone in the foyer of the House of Commons to make a comment in English and one in French.
First, he said that he'd just been handed an account of what he called "the prime minister lashing out."
"I really hope Mr. Harper rethinks the extents and the lengths he is willing to go to personally attack people and to politicize tragedies like that," Trudeau said.
The controversy over Trudeau's remarks is reminiscent of the firestorm after comments former prime minister Jean Chretien made a year after the 9/11 attacks, although Chretien was much more explicit about what might have motivated those that hijacked planes with the intention of crashing them into buildings.
In a 2002 interview with Mansbridge, Chretien said, "And I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world and necessarily will be looked upon as being arrogant and self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. The 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more."