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

Sidney asking tourists to respect health guidelines

Messaging says Sidney is ‘excited to welcome smart, safe, and respectful visits’

Arrest made after hydraulic rescue pump stolen from temporary Saanich fire hall

VicPD K-9 unit called in to help locate suspect, stolen equipment

Architect plans to revitalize Victoria ‘gateways,’ including Wellburns building

Wood-construction apartments planned for Scott, Wellburn’s buildings

Public tips lead to arrest in alleged random assault on Victoria bus

June 19 incident was recorded by onboard camera

Younger Canadians, men less likely to wear masks, according to Stats Canada

Immigrants, especially immigrant women, more likely to follow precautions

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Most Read