'Fear is easy': Trudeau wraps up official visit with diversity speech
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 4:40AM EST Last Updated Friday, March 11, 2016 6:19PM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the importance of diversity and optimism on Friday, on the last day of his state visit to Washington, D.C.
"Fear is easy," Trudeau said in a speech at a Canada 2020 luncheon. "Friendship takes work, but Canada and the United States have proven time and time again that finding common ground is worth the effort."
Trudeau sought to promote the values of progressive politics on Friday, even as he faced a slew of questions about Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination.
"Diversity is strength," Trudeau said at the luncheon, as he laid out his view of progressive politics for the think-tank audience.
The PM refused to address Trump specifically, saying only that he has "confidence in the American electorate," and that he looks forward to working with whoever is elected in November.
On Friday morning, Trudeau told an audience of students at American University's School of International Service, adding that those feelings promote a "close-minded" and negative view of the world. "I think one of the responsibilities of leadership is to draw people out of that," he said.
Instead of addressing Trump, Trudeau spoke of diversity-related issues that surfaced during the Canadian federal election, including the niqab in Quebec, revoking citizenship for convicted dual citizens, and the Conservatives' "barbaric cultural practices" hotline.
"We need to have public discourse that goes beyond the knee-jerk reactions," he said, adding that Canadians "find it hard to sustain anger and fear for very long."
He also laughed off the notion that many Americans would immigrate to Canada if Donald Trump wins the election. Trudeau called the notion a "trope" that comes up every election season, and joked that if everyone who threatened to move to Canada actually followed through, Canada would have more people in it than the U.S.
The PM spoke at length about the importance of diversity, though he also said Canada still has a lot of work to do to engage its indigenous peoples. "We haven't done a very good job over the past generations," he said.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau visited Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, to pay his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, both wore black for their visit to the storied cemetery, where many soldiers and significant American figures, including former president John F. Kennedy, are buried.
The PM laid a wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and paused for a moment of silence.
During the trip, Trudeau met Democratic lawmakers, including House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Trudeau ended his visit at the World Bank, before boarding a plane bound for Ottawa.
Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood, a Washington expert with Dentons, told CTV’s Power Play she believes Trudeau “packed about 10 state visits into one.”
“I think Capitol Hill can’t help but be impressed by a leader who comes in, romances the town, and has serious ideas,” she said.
Although Obama only has about 10 months left in office, Greenwood said the trip was still valuable for U.S.-Canada relations.
“It’s not like Barack Obama is leaving the scene completely,” she added.
Conservative MP Peter Kent was more skeptical. The former environment minister called the visit “a lot of pomp and ceremony” and said it remains to be seen whether anything valuable was achieved.
Kent told Power Play that “there wasn’t a lot of backslapping” between Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but their meetings were “productive” and “civil.”
NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen also questioned whether Trudeau’s trip mattered. He said the methane reduction agreement announced Thursday was based on “work done by the provinces.”
“I’ll give credit where credit is due,” he said, adding that climate change and softwood lumber are “still elephants in the room.”
On climate change, Cullen said the Americans are going to eventually ask “What have you got?”
“What we’ve got, so far, is Harper’s (carbon dioxide reduction) targets and not much more.”