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It’s not often that Justin Trudeau is caught speechless.
When asked by the Prime Minister of Canada what he thought of President Trump’s measures to suppress a wave of protests in the United States, Trudeau paused before answering – for 21 seconds while the cameras recorded his uncomfortable silence.
During a press conference on Tuesday outside his residence in Ottawa, the Prime Minister asked a reporter this question:
“They were reluctant to comment on the words and actions of the US President. But now Donald Trump is calling for military action against demonstrators. We saw how protesters were gassed in tears yesterday to make room for a photo of the President I want to ask you what you think about it. And if you don’t want to comment, what message do you think you’re sending? “
Before answering, the prime minister, who had had a beard and shaggy hair since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, looked down at his lectern, opened his mouth as if he wanted to speak – then paused, shifted his weight and hardly pushed audible “um” off as birds chirped in the background.
“We are all watching with horror and dismay at what is going on in the United States,” he said finally. “It is a time to bring people together, but it is a time to listen.
“It is a time to learn what injustices have been going on for years and decades despite progress. But it is time for us Canadians to realize that we too have our challenges,” he said.
“That black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a living reality every day,” continued Trudeau. “There is systematic discrimination in Canada, which means that our systems treat colored Canadians, racialized Canadians, differently than others.”
Trudeau typically shows reluctance to take Trump’s actions, taking into account the central importance of US-Canada relations and their enormous cross-border economic interdependence.
In Canada, there have been relatively small, peaceful protests in solidarity with U.S. demonstrations that first broke out last week after George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week. In contrast, protests in US cities were generally very large and often turned into clashes between police and activists.
The Canadian protests against Black Lives Matter have taken place in Montreal, Halifax, Toronto and Regina, the provincial capital of Saskatchewan.
At the protest in Regina on Tuesday that gathered several hundred people, one of the organizers, Faith Olanipekun, told the CBC: “Many people here think Canada is not racist.”
“It is therefore important that we come out, express our concerns and let people know that we suffer in Canada as much as people in the United States,” said Olanipekun.