Whatever one thinks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not just showing up at an anti-racism protest in Ottawa but also taking a knee, I think we can all agree that the last thing we need is U.S. President Donald Trump weighing in.
Just as Canadians can decide for themselves whether our prime minister has appropriately handled or responded to this or any other issue, the same is true for Americans and their president. It’s quite obvious that Trudeau and Trump are very different politicians and certainly there has been a sharp contrast between how the two have spoken about recent protests and broader issues around racism.
READ MORE: Justin Trudeau takes a knee at anti-Black racism protest in Ottawa
What is to be gained from having our prime minister directly calling out, criticizing, or rebuking the U.S. president? Very little, as far as I can see. Trudeau deserves credit for steering clear of doing so and his critics should perhaps give their heads a shake.
Make no mistake, I believe Trump is fully deserving of all sorts of criticism on all sorts of issues and is probably also deserving of a resounding defeat in November (mind you, I also think Trudeau is deserving of much criticism on a range of issues). There are plenty of Canadians with all sorts of opinions on Trump, but that doesn’t need to include the prime minister.
When it comes to matters affecting the Canada-U.S. relationship, there may indeed be moments where one leader is justified in publicly criticizing the other. It was certainly reasonable, for example, for Trudeau to speak out against the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump imposed on Canada.
Furthermore, it’s possible for the two leaders to disagree on matters without openly calling each other out. When Trudeau recently asserted his position that Russia should not be readmitted to the G7, it was obvious that he was taking a different position on the matter from Trump — he didn’t really need to add “so therefore Trump is wrong on this,” which would have been needlessly provocative.
When it comes to domestic issues, though, we should adhere to the tradition of our respective leaders refraining from commenting directly. That should still apply even in a situation such as the one we’re confronted with at the moment.
As Trudeau appeared at the rally on Friday, he was greeted with chants of “stand up to Trump.” That came on the heels of a rather awkward moment earlier in the week when Trudeau took about 20 seconds to respond to a reporter’s question about why he wouldn’t comment directly on Trump’s call to deploy the military to deal with the protests or the manner in which protesters were cleared out of Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Square on Monday.
READ MORE: Trudeau stays silent on Trump’s behaviour as George Floyd protests spread
First of all, it is delusional to think that a public rebuking from Trudeau — or any other foreign leader — would convince Trump that he is in the wrong or that he needs to change course. If anything, it would likely cause Trump to double down. Furthermore, there’s likely a substantial number of Americans who may have their own reservations about how Trump has dealt with these issues, but would bristle at such blatant foreign interference.
The United States is and remains a democracy. Americans will be the ones to judge the president on how he has performed. Those concerned at Trump’s words or actions should take heart in the fact that many Americans seem less than impressed in how he has responded.