Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen as he pauses during a response to a question on racism during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday June 2, 2020. As long-standing anger about discrimination boils over in the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians must recognize there is systemic racism in their own country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen as he pauses during a response to a question on racism during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday June 2, 2020. As long-standing anger about discrimination boils over in the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians must recognize there is systemic racism in their own country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Canada’s prime minister on Tuesday (June 2) avoided commenting on a highly controversial presidential photo-op south of the border that saw anti-racism protesters teargassed and shot with rubber bullets the night before.

U.S. President Donald Trump emerged from the White House Rose Garden on Monday night, not long after officers had marched forward, confronting protesters as many held up their hands, saying, “Don’t shoot.”

Law enforcement officers forced protesters back, firing tear gas and deploying flash bangs into the crowd to disperse them from the park. The scene, which played on live television, showed police in the nation’s capital clearing young men and women gathered legally in a public park on a sunny evening. The protest in front of the White House was one of a series across the United States since George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. A family-ordered autopsy found Floyd died of asphyxiation, and the police officer has been charged with murder.

READ MORE: George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

With smoke still wafting and isolated tussles continuing in the crowd, Trump emerged in the Rose Garden for a dramatic split-screen of his own creation.

“I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters,” he declared, before demanding that governors across the nation deploy the National Guard “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.” And he warned that, if they refused, he would deploy the United States military “and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Trump then walked toward St. John’s Church, the landmark pale yellow building where every president, including Trump, has prayed. It had been damaged Sunday night in a protest fire.

Trump, standing alone in front of cameras, then raised a black-covered Bible for reporters to see.

“We have a great country,” Trump said. “Greatest country in the world.”

He didn’t talk about Floyd, the church or the damage it had suffered, or the peaceful protesters police had cleared. He also didn’t mention the coronavirus pandemic, the parallel crisis that has continued to ravage the nation as Trump campaigns for a second presidential term. And then he invited his attorney general, national security adviser, chief of staff, press secretary and defence secretary to join him for another round of photos before he walked back across the park to the White House.

At one point, Trump stopped and pumped his fist in the air at National Guard members in the distance.

“We’re going to keep it nice and safe,” he said.

Religious leaders slammed the president’s photo-op; one of them calling it “one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen.”

When asked about Trump’s actions during his Tuesday press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a long pause before responding.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what is happening in the United States,” Trudeau said.

“It is a time for us as Canadians to recognize we too have our challenges. Black Canadians and racialized Canadians live racism as their reality every single day.”

Protests against racism have spread to Canada, with some peaceful, as in Vancouver, and some turning violent, as in Montreal.

PHOTOS: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery to protest racism

“My job as a Canadian prime minister is to stand up for Canadians, to stand up for our interests, to stand up for our values.”

(WATCH: Trudeau responds to questions about Trump’s actions. Skip to 18:30 mark)

Trudeau was also asked if he considered colonial aggressions against Canada’s Indigenous peoples to be genocide.

“Many people have talked about cultural genocide, used very strong words for it and I think there are very strong words necessary to talk about the continued injustice towards Indigenous peoples that is ongoing in Canada,” he said, speaking of the importance of partnerships and reconciliation movements.

“There are lots of words that can be used, we need to use them and we need to move forward.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Donald TrumpJustin Trudeauracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

(File photo)
Interior Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Teck’s Elk Valley operations over

48 cases were linked to three Teck locations in the Elk Valley

(File photo)
Sparwood backs calls to declare Canadian overdose crisis a national public health emergency

Paramedics across B.C. responded to more overdose calls in 2020 than ever before

The district of Sparwood is seeking feedback on its Recreation Master Plan. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Non-medical cannabis store proposed for Sparwood

If approved, Elk Valley Cannabis would be the first cannabis business in the district

Natalie Joynes, Theo Hepher, Kai Dedey, and Sophia Becker sit on a blanket enjoying FYAN’s summer youth programming. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
Job Readiness Workshops available for local youth

Registration is now open for the series of free virtual workshops

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Most Read