Al Sharpton comments on Trudeau's 'pause,' says he won't wait 21 seconds to condemn racism
Sharpton will eulogize George Floyd at a service in Minnesota today
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton took what appeared to be a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today over the PM's 21-second pause before answering a reporter's question about U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of nationwide protests against police violence.
Sharpton said he will use his moment at a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis later today to rally the nation to confront systemic racism. He also vowed to clearly condemn Trump's actions — something he suggested Trudeau didn't do when asked about the events south of the border earlier this week.
Sharpton, a Baptist minister and TV talk show host, didn't mention Trudeau by name in his answer but referenced the prime minister's lengthy pause — a moment which was widely watched in the U.S. and profiled in the New York Times.
"How many funerals do we have to have before we change the laws and we have accountability? I'm going to preach to this family that we're going to make sure that George Floyd did not die in vain," Sharpton said in an interview with Radio-Canada in Minneapolis.
"The time has made the moment of change in America. And I'm going to express that in my eulogy. And since you're from Canada, I won't have a 21-second gap before I say what I have to say."
Watch: Al Sharpton takes an apparent dig at Trudeau's 21-second pause
Sharpton, a frequent critic of Trump, has been praised for his civil rights activism but he has also been accused of making controversial remarks, including anti-Semitic comments.
At a press conference earlier today, Trudeau was asked repeatedly why he took so long to answer a question about Trump's threat to use military force against protesters demonstrating against Floyd's death in police custody.
When answering that question Wednesday, Trudeau didn't criticize Trump by name when he said that Canada is watching in "horror" the recent events in the U.S. Today, he dodged questions about whether his answer was meant to avoid a diplomatic tiff with Trump.
Trump is sensitive to criticism and famously directed U.S. officials at a G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Que. to tear up an agreement after Trudeau made comments the president perceived as a slight. He called Trudeau "dishonest and weak" in response to his comments about the NAFTA negotiation process.
When asked today if he's taking care to avoid offending Trump because of Canada's dependence on the U.S. for personal protective equipment (PPE), Trudeau said he is defending Canada's interests.
"My job as prime minister is to stand up for Canadians' values, to express those values, and to ensure that I'm standing up for Canadians' interests as well," he said. "And I'm defending those interests."
Watch: Justin Trudeau is repeatedly asked about his 21-second pause
Trudeau said systemic racism is not a uniquely American problem and Canada has its own sordid history of discrimination. He vowed to do more to fight anti-black racism in Canada.
"We have done much, hand in hand, with the black community over these past years on supporting them, on reducing barriers, but we realize there is much more to do here in Canada, right across the country. We will continue to do that work," Trudeau said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet have both panned Trudeau's response to Trump.
Blanchet said Trudeau "needs a spine" and should show more courage in the face of aggressive actions by a U.S. leader that are fuelling chaos on the country's streets.
Blanchet said the prime minister is "more inclined" to accuse Canadians of being racist than to "accuse Donald Trump of being incendiary and provoking serious social tensions."
Singh said for too long people have been "passive bystanders," enabling hate and racism to flourish. People in positions of power, such as the prime minister, must lead by example, he said.