OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided using the word “racist” to describe xenophobic comments made by Donald Trump Sunday, in which the U.S. president told four Democratic congresswomen of colour to “go back” to other countries.
Trudeau was asked by a reporter Monday if he considered Trump’s misleading remarks — trolling congresswomen to return to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” and to “come back and show us how it’s done” — racist.
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“I think Canadians and indeed people around the world know exactly what I think about those particular comments. That is not how we do things in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.
“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” he said, repeating a slogan he used during the 2015 election campaign after a debate about citizenship. “The diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians. And we will continue to defend that.”
He did not mention Trump by name and did not repeat the president’s comments.
Trump’s rant appeared to target Democratic congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Three of the four women were, like Trump, born in the United States.
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All four congresswomen have been vocal critics against the Trump administration’s handling on immigration, specifically over the abhorrent conditions documented in U.S. migrant detention centres.
The U.S. president’s latest incendiary comments also prompted outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to respond, calling Trump’s words “completely unacceptable.”
At home, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called Trump’s rant a “display of racism.”
Singh has repeatedly called out the U.S. president for perpetuating racism.
The U.S. president has since doubled down on his racist remarks. At a White House event on Monday, he accused the congresswomen he attacked a day earlier of hating America.
“You can leave. You can leave right now,” Trump said. “Come back if you want. Don’t come back, that’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave.”
Despite participating in heated debate and exchanges about racism in Canada, Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have been more discreet with their choice of language whenever the subject is Trump.