Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says U.S. President Donald Trump incited the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington this week.
“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said at a press briefing outside his Ottawa residence Friday.
“As shocking, deeply disturbing and frankly saddening as that event remains, we’ve also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbour.”
Watch: The moment Trump told supporters to go to the Capitol
For the four years of Trump’s presidency, Trudeau has consistently resisted calling out Trump by name over a host of controversies, often saying it is his responsibility to have a fruitful working relationship with whoever is in the White House.
But with Trump’s time in office to end in 12 days and an attack by insurrectionists opposed to Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election win — a siege that resulted in at least five deaths — the prime minister has joined NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet in placing the blame on Trump.
The outgoing U.S. president, who has repeatedly peddled baseless conspiracy theories that he lost to Biden because of voter fraud, told a so-called “Save America” rally Wednesday they should march to the Capitol. Though he said he would walk with them, Trump did not.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told a crowd of supporters that included white nationalist groups, such as the Proud Boys. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
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Not long after Trump’s words, delivered from behind bulletproof glass, his supporters stormed the Capitol and attempted to prevent Biden from officially being declared the next president.
Violence has no place in our societies, Trudeau said, and “extremists will not succeed in overruling the will of the people.”
The prime minister said he discussed the week’s events with provincial and territorial premiers Thursday night, reflecting that democracy is not automatic and takes daily effort to maintain.
“What a real accomplishment it is to maintain a political system in which the losing side gracefully concedes and in which rival political parties between elections work together for the common good,” he said. “We have this in Canada because Canadians make it possible.
“Canadians expect their political leaders to protect our precious democracy by how we conduct ourselves.”
‘Canadian democracy didn’t happen by accident’
Trudeau pointed to the unanimous support his minority Liberal government has received from political rivals for measures to fight COVID-19, as well as the cooperation between the federal government and provincial governments of different stripes.
Canadians expect debate among their political leaders, he said, but it must be grounded in a shared acceptance of facts — and respect for diverse perspectives.
“Canadian democracy didn’t happen by accident and it won’t continue without work,” he said. “We must always work to secure our democracy and not give comfort to those who promote things that are not true or give space for hatred or extremism.”
On Wednesday, both Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole released tweets condemning the anti-democratic attack in the U.S., but neither mentioned Trump’s role in the chaos.
A day later, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong released a statement saying the “violence of an unruly mob incited by outgoing President Trump” was an affront to the shared principles between the U.S. and Canada, including the peaceful transition of power.
The NDP leader also released a lengthy statement Thursday, calling on politicians and leaders to choose their words carefully to “end divisive rhetoric and end the flaming of hatred.”
Trudeau echoed that message Friday in response to a question probing his concern about the cross-border mobilization of the Proud Boys, a neo-facist political organization co-founded by a Canadian, following Trump’s incitement of a crowd Wednesday to storm Capitol Hill.
“We are not immune to that in Canada,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau said Canadians, including himself, have a responsibility to “lead with respect,” to engage with different points of views, and avoid resorting to violence to influence public discourse.
“That is something that Canadians have commited to across the country over these past days and we will continue to be extremely vigilant to remember that the choices we make as leaders, as politicians, have consequences.”
Asked Friday if he expected the Trump presidency to end with another deadly mob attack on Capitol Hill, Trudeau spoke about the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and how much he looks forward to working with a new administration.
“I think throughout the past four years, we have learned as a country and indeed as a world, that the Trump administration was unpredictable and posed certain challenges,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau pointed to the renegotiated NAFTA as an example of how the Canadian government has been able to “defend Canadian interests significantly” during a tumultuous time.
With files from Zi-Ann Lum