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

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo
Comox set to apply for two infrastructure grants

Sanitary sewer, sidewalk extension in the town’s plans

The number of reported assaults in Courtenay jumped from 302 in 2019 to 364 in 2020. File photo
Assaults up in Courtenay, according to police statistics

The number of assaults increased significantly in Courtenay from 2019 to 2020,… Continue reading

Sawyer, a northern saw-whet owl that became synonymous with Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, passed away peacefully over the weekend. Sawyer would make numerous public appearances with MARS staff in and around the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Photo supplied.
Popular MARS ambassador owl dies

Submitted MARS Wildlife Rescue has lost one of its mightiest ambassadors. Tiny… Continue reading

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox assisted in helping an injured hiker down from the top of Mt. Benson near Nanaimo Jan. 23. Photo by 19 Wing Comox
With video: 442 Squadron assists mid-Island mountain rescue

The crew on the Buffalo hand-launched 15 flares

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

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

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)

Most Read