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opinion

Mel Cappe, former Clerk of the Privy Council and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, is a professor at the University of Toronto.

Violating norms is one thing, but this is outrageous. This is beyond the pale.

When was the last time we heard a country’s leader, let alone a world leader, make an ad hominem attack on another country’s leader? The last ones I can remember are when others did so with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo or the former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic. Leaders who are war criminals or persecute their own people.

Now U.S. President Donald Trump adds Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the list. I am horrified that this off-kilter leader called my Prime Minister “very dishonest and weak.”

This is unprecedented. How can we continue to negotiate with the United States when Mr. Trump mocks and belittles Mr. Trudeau?

This is not a defence of the Liberal Party. Nor is it a defence of the Government of Canada. This is a demand for respect for our democracy. We elected Mr. Trudeau, love him or hate him. It is not the job of President of the United States to judge Canada’s Prime Minister. His task is to deal with the pressing issues we share.

Decent people do not belittle or mock their allies or their enemies. Decent people do not engage in juvenile name-calling. Decent people do not resort to personal attacks when they don’t like the outcome of a meeting.

I think Mr. Trudeau should not stand for this. He should insist on a formal apology.

Moreover the media should be reporting on how unprecedented and how unacceptable this is in the international rules-based system. International norms of behaviour are there for a reason: to encourage the resolution of problems and promote the development and growth of Western democracies.

We are respectful and decent people. Over the past 70 years the U.S. has led the construction of an international order based on mutual respect, and worked on improving the joint and interconnected interdependence among nations.

But this recent behaviour is abnormal: Someone has to call out Mr. Trump.