OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump is to blame for the storming of the Capitol.
“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said at a media briefing outside his home at Rideau Cottage.
It is the strongest language Trudeau has used yet to describe the mob violence in Washington on Wednesday that left one Capitol Police officer and four others dead.
“As shocking, deeply disturbing and frankly saddening as that event remains, we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbor,” Trudeau added.
The prime minister’s comments add to those of other world leaders who have decried the events and come as Democratic leaders in Washington weigh if — and how — to remove Trump before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
Trudeau’s first take: Asked about the situation while it was unfolding on Wednesday, Trudeau told News 1130 in Vancouver that Canada was watching carefully. “Hopefully everything will return to normal shortly,” he said.
Take two: Later that evening, Trudeau used a tweet to toughen his take. ”Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour,” he said. “Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the U.S. must be upheld — and it will be.”
Once more for the record: After denouncing Trump, Trudeau took time at the start of Friday’s media briefing to extol the workings of Canadian democracy.
“It takes work every day,” he said. “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 toward the common good.”
Tested relations: The Liberal government has long stepped carefully around the Trump administration — most of the time — something the prime minister acknowledged on Friday when asked if new rebuke might antagonize the president or damage the relationship.
“During 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,” Trudeau observed.
He said his focus in Canada-U.S. relations is to defend Canadian interests and pointed to the new NAFTA trade pact as the product of such efforts.
“We were able to renegotiate NAFTA in a way consistent with our values and our approaches and defend Canadian interests significantly in that area — and in many other ways,” he said.
Hard-learned lessons: In fact, USMCA negotiations taught the Trudeau administration how to deal with the Trump administration, a senior official told POLITICO last year. Canadian officials learned they needed to deal quickly and directly with senior Trump decision-makers.
It’s a lesson that has helped to guide Canada-U.S. relations during the pandemic since the Canada-U.S. border has been closed to nonessential travel. What happens next there is certain to be a top concern when Biden takes office.
“There is going to be much said and written about in the history books over the coming years about this time,” Trudeau said. “My focus has always been — and will always be — how to make sure Canadians are best represented, best defended and best supported as we move through this world.”
What's next: Trudeau said it’s his plan to stick with what works. “That’s what we’ve done with this administration and what I very much look forward to doing with President Biden as of a couple of weeks from now.”