Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is highlighting the fragile nature of democracy following violence in D.C. on Wednesday, which he characterized as an “assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians.”
The decision to pin blame for the violent mob on the outgoing president is one of the strongest rebukes the prime minister had directed at U.S. President Donald Trump to date.
“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 neighbour,” Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Friday.
“Violence has no place in our societies, and extremists will not succeed in overruling the will of the people.”
A mob violently disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win on Wednesday, smashing windows and scaling the walls in an incident that left four dead.
Politicians and reporters were forced to evacuate or fled to safer parts of the building, and the mayor imposed a 6 p.m. ET curfew for the entire D.C. area during the incident.
“Democracy is not automatic – it takes work every day. 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,” Trudeau said.
He added that this democracy “didn’t happen by accident” and “won’t continue without effort.”
“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 hate and extremism,” Trudeau said.
The violence sparked a slew of resignations from members of Trump’s team, as well as calls for him to be removed from office with just two weeks remaining before Biden’s inauguration.
Trump has said he doesn’t plan to attend the inauguration. The last time an outgoing president skipped the incoming president’s swearing-in was when Andrew Johnson missed the ceremony 152 years ago.
When pressed on whether he has concerns about the impact his words could have on Canada’s relations with the outgoing administration, Trudeau held firm in his conviction.
“I think it’s extremely important that we be there to defend democracy and the principles that Canadians, and indeed Americans and people around the world hold dear,” Trudeau said.
“And recognizing that words have consequences, that choices made by people in power can have a direct impact, not just on behaviours, but on our very institutions is an important thing.”
Trudeau also added that there is going to be “much said and written” about the Trump administration “in the history books over the coming years.”
The events on Wednesday, Trudeau said, serve as a stern reminder to all politicians of the power woven into the words they use. He explained that Canada is “not immune” to the discourse that resulted in the violent storming of Capitol Hill.
“We will continue to be extremely vigilant to remember that the choices we make as leaders, as politicians, have consequences. What we choose to say, what we choose not to say, how we choose to say it, does have an impact on Canadians, encourages people to do some things, discourages them to do others,” Trudeau said.
“We need to be more responsible, all of us, in how we approach civil society and community engagement, and that’s something that I think we are all re-dedicated to after seeing what can happen in the United States and elsewhere.”
Trudeau isn’t the only Canadian leader who has reacted to the violent mob’s actions.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole weighed in, calling the incident an “astonishing assault on freedom and democracy” on Wednesday. Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the situation “frightening” and put the blame squarely at Trump’s feet.
“Democracy must not be intimidated. The violence must end,” Singh said in a Wednesday tweet.
Trump did finally acknowledge he had lost the election to Biden in a Thursday video, which he released on Twitter.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” Trump said in the video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
By Friday morning, he had returned to directing all-caps tweets at his supporters – after having been locked out of his account for 12 hours on Wednesday as a result of tweets that appeared to incite the rioters.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” Trump wrote in the Friday tweet.