Trudeau rejects criticism over Paris attack comments, says Canada defends free speech

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will “always” defend the rights of Canadians, after Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole accused him of not standing with French President Emmanuel Macron and supporting freedom of speech.

“Nothing justifies the horrific violence we saw last week and over the past weeks. Nothing justifies violence. Nothing justifies terrorism,” Trudeau said during Tuesday’s Question Period at the House of Commons.

“Canadians’ rights, the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, all the rights Canadians expect governments to defend, we will always defend.”

The prime minister’s comments come in response to multiple attacks in France over reprinted caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, which is considered blasphemous by Muslims.

“World leaders have been standing with President Macron and defending free speech. Why hasn’t this prime minister?” O’Toole said. 

Trudeau replied he “unequivocally” condemned the terrorist attacks in France, as well as around the world.

“We stand with the French people,” he said.

Charlie Hebdo’s newsroom was first attacked after originally publishing the caricatures in January 2015. The attack, which left 12 dead, prompted the slogan “Je Suis Charlie.”

There have been at least three more attacks, including one in which three people were killed inside of a church and a stabbing outside of the newsroom, since the newspaper began reprinting the caricatures in September.

On Friday, Trudeau defended the freedom of speech, but said it was “not without limits.”

“In a pluralistic, diverse and respectful society like ours, we must be aware of the impact of our words, of our actions on others, particularly these communities and populations who still experience enormous discrimination,” he said.

“We owe it to ourselves to act with respect for others and to seek not to arbitrarily or unnecessarily injure those with whom we are sharing a society and a planet.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet criticized Trudeau for “failing in his duty” to “absolutely” denounce terrorism and accused him of tarnishing the country’s relationship with Quebec at a news conference on Monday.

“I’m ashamed that some French people could believe that what Mr. Trudeau has said is what Quebecers think,” he said.

Quebec Premier François Legault has also publicly disagreed with the prime minister, and said Tuesday Macron thanked him for his support.

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