”To our partners around the world, the fight against racism and intolerance will be a major fight. But we can’t put it off any longer. I know that we can make real change here. We can turn the page, and get off this dangerous path we’re on. We need only look to our communities for inspiration” said by Justin P. J. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada in Parliament.
Statement made by The Right Honourable Justin P. J. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada in Parliament on 18 March on the terrorist attack in New Zealand.
Before we begin, our hearts go out to the people of Utrecht and the Netherlands, who are reeling in the aftermath of a tram shooting. It’s in the early stages, but we do know that there are fatalities, and a number of injuries. Police are looking at it as a possible terrorist incident.
We stand with our Dutch friends as they grapple with the consequences of this violence, and we will be reaching out to our counterparts to offer our unwavering support.
Prime Minister Rutte addressed this House mere months ago, and he spoke of the close ties between our countries. Canada will be there for the Netherlands in the difficult days ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express Canada’s deepest condolences to all those grieving in New Zealand.
Just a few days ago, our friend and ally suffered the worst terrorist attack in their history. An attack motivated by Islamophobia. Fifty men, women, and children murdered at prayer. Dozens injured. Gunned down by a monster. A terrorist. A coward.
I spoke with Prime Minister Ardern to express Canada’s deepest sympathy and support, and praised her compassionate leadership in the wake of this tragedy.
Our hearts ache for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, partners and friends who never had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. Loved ones killed by a hateful individual who ascribed to a hateful ideology.
Mr. Speaker, Canada is home to over a million Muslims who live and thrive in a free and open, secular democracy. It is our responsibility to maintain this freedom, so that those who choose to practice faith can do so without fear of violence.
To our Muslim friends here in Canada, in New Zealand, and around the world, know that we mourn with you. We feel your pain, and we love you. We will stand by you in the difficult days and weeks to come.
The Qur’an tells us: ‘the true servants of the Most Merciful are those who behave gently and with humility on earth, and whenever the foolish quarrel with them, they reply with words of peace.’
Now, if that idea sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve also heard it in the Gospel of Matthew, which speaks not of revenge and retaliation, but of turning the other cheek. Indeed, if we choose to look for them, the lessons found within our faiths will bind us together, and are more powerful than those things that seek to divide us.
Just two years ago, I stood at a vigil for six innocent men in Ste. Foy, Quebec. Brothers, fathers, and sons who, like the victims of Christchurch, were gunned down during prayer. I mourned with the families, who couldn’t believe that such hatred could touch their community.
Mr. Speaker, the tragedies in Ste. Foy and in Christchurch are ones we’ve seen too many times before. Innocent people are killed. Headlines blare out as nations grapple with chaos and violence. Mass shootings. Faith-based slaughter. Terrorist attacks.
It is shameful, and sadly, the leaders of the world bear some responsibility. Responsibility we can no longer ignore by simply pointing fingers. Because, in this day and age, those that seethe the loudest are given a larger platform than ever before.
Toxic rhetoric has broken into the mainstream. It’s anti-Semitic. Islamophobic. Anti-black. Anti-Indigenous. Misogynistic. Homophobic. The list goes on and on.
This rhetoric is dangerous, hateful, and vile. It lives and festers online, spilling out into the real world with deadly consequences. We see it here in Canada, in online harassment, anonymous letters, defaced places of worship, acts of violence, and even murder.
When we fail to denounce hatred with total conviction, we empower those people and legitimize their violence. Mr. Speaker, over the years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of terrorist attacks targeting Muslims all around the world. So, families flee to democracies like Canada, and the United States, and our allies, praying that their new homes will give them safety. Hoping that their kids will know a place where they are not targeted because of faith.
But sadly, Mr. Speaker, these same families who fled violence in their homelands are now too often met by a new kind of violence when they reach new shores. Anti-immigrant hatred. Right-wing extremism. White nationalism. Neo-Nazi terrorism.
These groups are alive in Canada – a nation that, under the leadership of Laurier, and Diefenbaker, and my father, has long championed the protection of minorities, and promoted our diversity as our greatest strength.
And yet, while the majority of our citizens welcome these newcomers with open arms, small, toxic segments peddle the belief that greater diversity is a weakness. The irony is that these fringe groups say they despise Daesh, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, and others. But they spew hatred, and incite violence, and murder the innocent just the same. They are no better than those they claim to hate.
Mr. Speaker, the problem is not only that politicians routinely fail to denounce this hatred – it’s that, in too many cases, they actively court those who spread it. To politicians and leaders around the world: the dog whistle politics, the ease with which certain people choose to adopt extremist ideology – it has to stop.
It’s not that people are dying. It’s that people are being killed. Mothers and fathers, ripped from their families. Carefree, innocent children gunned down in the blink of an eye, without an ounce of reticence. Mosques. Temples. Synagogues. Churches.
Concerts. Malls. Schools. People murdered while vulnerable and defenseless – here in Canada, south of the border, around the world.
And the response is always the same. We’re aghast as the headlines blare, and moms and dads hug their kids a little tighter, and thank God it’s not happening to them.
Politicians stand around, and we offer our condolences, and we say nice things in the aftermath. We say that we’ll do better. We say that never again will such hatred be allowed to fester unchallenged. And then, when the flames die down, and the smoke clears, we look the other way. We revert back to politicking, figuring out how we can tap into that powerful rage to harness a few more votes. We scapegoat the “other” to play to our base. With a wink and a nudge, we legitimize this evil.
Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to cast a light on this hatred, and on our unwillingness to call it out. As leaders, as privileged few with power and an audience, we have a responsibility to do something. This responsibility is not negotiable. It’s not to be waived when it’s politically convenient.
Courting these views is always the wrong choice to make. We have to chase out this hatred from our parties, fight it online, denounce it at town halls, push back when it reaches our front door. Choosing to stay silent, while hatred stews, is complicity in its most cowardly form.
Mr. Speaker, year after year, decade after decade, we mourn the loss of X number of people, in X country, and we vow to do better. But then we repeat the cycle, as leaders decide that hatred is an emotion worth exploiting, and they ride to power on the back of insatiable anger. As a society, as a global community, as human beings, have we learned nothing?
To be honest, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of passing on our “thoughts and prayers”.
But, as tired as I am, I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel for those who are affected by this kind of violence every single day.
People around the world are exhausted by the carnage. They reach out to console friends and neighbours when these tragedies rock their communities, incensed by their leaders’ inability to take a principled stand. People come out to vigils, and plead for action, and we fall short. Our communities set an example that our leaders consistently fail to follow. After tragedies like these, politicians often say that it’s not a time to talk politics, but that instead we should grieve and support the affected communities.
I think that’s a farce. This is exactly the time to talk politics. Because the best way to support people is to acknowledge that there’s a problem, and take concrete steps to fix it.
Mr. Speaker, we as a global society have a choice to make. Will we call out our leaders, who turn a blind eye to those who incite violence? Will we call out our co- workers, who tell racist or misogynistic jokes, unchallenged? Will we call out the online trolls – those cowards who spew hatred, launching their vitriol behind a shield of anonymity? Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, will we do the right thing? Or will we bury our heads in the sand now, only to bury them in our hands later?
The tragedy in New Zealand is, sadly, another example of just how far we’ve gone astray. But we cannot let the lessons of those 50 deaths go unlearned. The path we’re going down is dangerous and unsustainable. People are tired of fighting this alone, without the backing of their leaders.
But we can take a stand, here and now, in Canada and around the world, to say that enough is enough. That the days of spewing hatred and inciting violence without consequence are over. We owe it to the people of Christchurch. We owe it to the people of Ste. Foy, and Pittsburgh, and Manchester. Mr. Speaker, we owe it to our kids, and we owe it to ourselves.
I’m calling on like-minded countries of the world to stand with Canada in this fight. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, black, white, all of us – we must fight this hatred as a team. A team that refuses to accept this as the new normal. A team tired of sending “thoughts and prayers”.
Here in Canada, we’ve already taken important steps to fight discrimination and hatred. We’ve stepped up our investigations into extreme hate groups, including white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. We’ve made meaningful reforms around gun control. We increased funding for security at places of worship. And we’re investing in programs that foster inclusion, build bridges, and celebrate our diversity.
And still, we know that there is much more work to do. But make no mistake, we will do what needs to be done. And we will bring this message to the international stage.
To our partners around the world, the fight against racism and intolerance will be a major fight. But we can’t put it off any longer. I know that we can make real change here. We can turn the page, and get off this dangerous path we’re on. We need only look to our communities for inspiration.
Mr. Speaker, there are more good people than bad in this world. The light outweighs the dark, the good greatly outnumbers the evil. We see it when our citizens come together at vigils in the wake of tragedy. We see it when strangers link arms to protect places of worship. We see it in offers to walk with those who feel unsafe. We saw in in Ste. Foy, and we’re seeing it now in New Zealand. This is an important fight.
I’m calling on politicians of all stripes to follow the example set by the good people we serve, and do the right thing. We must counter this hatred. And together, we will.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.