Justin Trudeau has toughened his stand against the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump after the Prime Minister was criticized for his conciliatory tone in confronting racist comments.
“I think the comments made were hurtful, wrong and completely unacceptable,” Mr. Trudeau said Thursday, following a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk. “I want everyone in Canada to know these comments are completely unacceptable and should not be allowed or encouraged in Canada.”
Mr. Trudeau’s response came after a Wednesday evening Trump rally where supporters shouted “send her back” when the U.S. President referred to Representative Ilhan Omar. She is one of four Democratic congresswomen Mr. Trump previously said should go back to their countries.
Mr. Trump tried to distance himself from his own rhetoric later Thursday, saying he was unhappy with his supporters’ chanting.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he tried to stop the chant, which came after he recited a litany of complaints about Ms. Omar, who fled to the United States as a child with her family from violence-racked Somalia. Video shows the President pausing his remarks, appearing to drink in the uproar and not admonishing his supporters as they chanted.
“I was not happy with it,” Mr. Trump said a day later as some prominent Republicans criticized the chant at the President’s re-election event. He said he “would certainly try” to stop the chant should it happen again.
At the Wednesday campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., Mr. Trump tore into four progressive freshman congresswomen. He said in a tweet last weekend that they should return to their native countries if they “hate America.” Of the four, who strongly oppose many of Mr. Trump’s policies, one is black, one is Hispanic and two are Muslim. All are American citizens and three were born in the United States.
Besides Ms. Omar, Mr. Trump has also been criticizing Democratic representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
The Democratic-led House voted Tuesday to condemn Mr. Trump’s tweets as racist. Ms. Omar did not back down on Thursday, calling Mr. Trump a racist and fascist.
Mr. Trudeau bolstered his condemnation one day after offering a softer response in which he said Mr. Trump’s comments did not represent the way Canada does things. Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was more specific, referring to the comments as intolerant and divisive, adding that people should be able to criticize the government “without having their background or their personal identity or where their family might come from questioned or in any way taken into account.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer for failing to confront racism.
Mr. Tusk, a Polish politician who is often critical of Mr. Trump, got in his own dig, saying he was pleased to be in Montreal where no one shouted to “send him back” to his country.
Mr. Tusk said such comments must be called out even if they might harm business or trade. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned,” the outgoing EU leader said.
Mr. Tusk met the Prime Minister to discuss the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, which gives Canadian businesses preferred access to the European market.
Canada’s Parliament has already ratified the pact. Thirteen EU countries have ratified the deal with a vote in the French legislature scheduled for next week.
Mr. Trudeau said more than 90 per cent of the benefits of the agreement are already in effect.
With a report from the Associated Press
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