Justin Trudeau, when asked about US president Donald Trump threatening to use the military to quell protests over the police killing of George Floyd, paused for more than 20 seconds before responding that Canadians were observing events in the US with horror.
“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” the Canadian prime minister said on Tuesday at a daily news briefing, after a reporter pressed him on Trump’s idea of using soldiers against protesters.
The reporter also sought comment on the teargassing of US protesters on Monday “to make way for a presidential photo op”.
“It is a time to pull people together,” Trudeau said. “It is a time to listen, to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades.”
Trudeau talked about the need to fight racism in Canada, something he has spoken about since the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis last week sparked US protests.
When a reporter asked for further comment on Trump’s words and actions, Trudeau said: “My job as a Canadian prime minister is to stand up for Canadians.”
Trudeau has long spoken about the need to end racism, but his re-election campaign was almost derailed in September last year after historical pictures of him in blackface emerged.
Deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, a former reporter, separately defended the work of American journalists who have been targeted by both police and protesters. “Journalists are not the enemies of the people; journalists serve the people,” she said at a news conference.
On Saturday in Minneapolis, Reuters journalist Julio-Cesar Chavez and Reuters security adviser Rodney Seward were struck and injured by rubber bullets.
Trump has frequently attacked the media in the past, calling them “the enemy of the people”.