Singh condemns Trudeau's silence over Trump's 'reprehensible' actions

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has condemned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's failure to call out the "reprehensible" actions of U.S. President Donald Trump as protests escalate over anti-black racism.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says Trudeau 'needs a spine'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under fire from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh over his failure to condemn U.S. President Donald Trump's response to anti-black racism protests. (The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has condemned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's failure to call out the "reprehensible" actions of U.S. President Donald Trump as protests escalate over anti-black racism.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François 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."

"Mr. Trudeau is much more inclined to accuse us collectively of all the vices," the Bloc leader said.

"His silence reveals hypocrisy," Singh said during a news conference in Ottawa this morning.

WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses when asked about Trump's response to protests:

Trudeau pauses 21 seconds on question about Trump's actions

3 years ago
Duration 3:00
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.

When asked Tuesday to comment on Trump's threat to use military force against protesters demonstrating against the death of African American George Floyd in police custody, Trudeau paused for 21 seconds before giving a carefully worded response.

He avoided criticizing the president directly, instead speaking more broadly of social "injustices."

WATCH | Jagmeet Singh says what Trump is doing 'is wrong and needs to be called out':

What U.S. President Donald Trump is doing 'Is wrong and needs to be called out': Singh

3 years ago
Duration 1:44
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

"We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on in the United States," he said. "It is a time to pull people together.... It is a time to listen. It is a time to learn, when injustices continue despite progress over years and decades."

Singh said that's not good enough. He 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.

"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.

Singh said Trump's actions are "reprehensible" and are inflaming tensions in the United States.

Other NDP MPs went further in their rhetoric.

"Twenty seconds of silence? Trump is a fascist with ties to the KKK. Call his actions out Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland," Winnipeg MP Leah Gazan tweeted.

"Trump is a fascist and a racist and he must be called out. Speak up," Northern Manitoba MP Niki Ashton tweeted. (Trump has called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), white supremacists and neo-Nazis "criminals and thugs" and "repugnant.")

The NDP, a social democratic party, has long been critical of Trudeau's handling of the Trump relationship.

Speaking in March 2016 ahead of the last presidential election, then leader Thomas Mulcair said Trudeau has been weak in the face of a "fascist."

"Donald Trump is a fascist. Let's not kid ourselves, let's not beat around the bush," Mulcair said in an address to party staff.

"I'm sorry, if a fascist becomes president of the United States, I want to be on record as having opposed it long before that election."

Trudeau was 'excellent and eloquent': Freeland

Trudeau has long been hesitant to wade into domestic U.S. politics or condemn Trump's more controversial remarks.

Trump has been known to lash out at his critics and Trudeau has tried to maintain a diplomatic relationship with the leader of Canada's largest trading partner — a country Canada depends on for critical supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

In defence of the prime minister Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Trudeau's answer to the Trump question was "excellent and eloquent."

"I think that most important response of any Canadian political leader has to be to understand our own responsibility for what happens here in our own country," she said.

WATCH | U.S. President Donald Trump says tougher response to protests is needed:

Trump demands tougher crackdowns on protests

3 years ago
Duration 3:28
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to deploy the military unless states halt violent protests. Trump said he would mobilize the military to end "lawlessness" and blamed anarchists and Antifa for fomenting unrest during demonstrations against police violence.

Blanchet said other world leaders "demonstrated more courage than Mr. Trudeau" in condemning Trump's actions Tuesday while Trudeau offered platitudes about anti-black racism.

What Trudeau offered was "20 seconds of carefully meditated silence, strategic silence," he said — a reference to Trudeau's long pause.

"He didn't have the courage to say the president of the United States is once again throwing oil on a dangerous fire against people, most of them in a peaceful fashion, who express sadness, indignation, sorrow, anger, all of that being entirely legitimate," Blanchet said.

WATCH | Yves-François Blanchet reacts to Trudeau's 21 seconds of silence:

BQ leader Blanchet reacts to Trudeau's 21 seconds of silence

3 years ago
Duration 1:19
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's silence was "carefully meditated" and "strategic," and he should show courage in directly calling out U.S. President Donald Trump's actions.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she's not prepared to criticize the prime minister and Freeland for their silence on Trump's threat to call out the military to restore order in America's cities.

She said the two depend on a healthy relationship with the Trump administration to negotiate agreements, such as the agreement on managing the border during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the opposition leaders and the government are in "different roles."

WATCH | Elizabeth May says she won't criticize Trudeau:

May won't criticize PM, but 'could not stay silent' on Trump

3 years ago
Duration 2:01
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May takes aim at U.S. President Donald Trump, reiterating that Canada must protect refugees coming through the border. She would not, however, be critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for not denouncing Trump.

She also said she is appalled by Trump.

"I want to give the prime minister and the deputy prime minister the space to navigate how they deal with the Trump White House. But, as an individual, as the parliamentary leader for the Green Party, I can't stand by.… I think those of us in other countries should speak out," May said.

She said the U.S. isn't safe for people of colour and Canada should consider admitting refugees, despite the current policy of not admitting asylum seekers because of pandemic-related public health concerns.


John Paul Tasker

Senior writer

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.