PM defends not publicly supporting LGBTQ rights in Senegal, photo with Iranian minister
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on the defensive Friday as he wrapped up a nine-day trip abroad and reporters questioned him about an interaction with Iran's foreign minister and his decision to not publicly defend LGBTQ rights while in the presence of Senegalese president.
Trudeau was asked why he didn't take the opportunity to publicly defend Canada's positon on LGBTQ rights during an appearance with Senegalese President Macky Sall earlier this week.
In Senegal, homosexual activity is criminalized. While standing next to Trudeau, Sall doubled down on his stance that his country would not accept any changes to its current laws and that homosexuality or Pride parades would not be accepted.
Sall's comments made front-page news in that country, while Trudeau touted that Canada was able to secure Senegal's vote for the coveted UN Security Council seat during that visit.
At a news conference in Munich on Friday, Trudeau said that Canada has had Senegal's support for the seat for "a while" and he "always" speaks with world leaders about human rights. He also pointed to Canada's funding for LGBTQ groups internationally.
"We will continue to work to ensure that people's rights are respected at home and everywhere around the world," Trudeau said.
Pressed again on why he didn’t take the opportunity to vocalize his support for LGBTQ rights—something the Liberal government has criticized the Conservative Party over lately—Trudeau said he's "never" shied away from bringing up human rights.
"One of the things that Canadians understand is we need to engage constructively with the world, stand up firmly for our values, and look to help people as we improve conditions for people around the world," Trudeau said.
"I've never shied away from bringing up human rights with leaders and I will continue to do that strongly, in a way that moves the dial forward."
The prime minister also sought to defend his decision to meet with and shake the hand of Iran's foreign minister on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, in light of the downing of Ukrainian Flight PS752 in Tehran that killed 57 Canadian citizens.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne was holding a bilateral meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Trudeau decided to attend. The prime minister said he did so because he "made a promise to families in Canada to do everything I could to make sure that they get answers."
Trudeau said that Champagne impressed upon his counterpart the importance of the flight's black boxes getting to Paris for further independent scrutiny and that Canada expects a full probe, compensation, and accountability for those responsible for the missile strikes that brought down the passenger jet.
"I went by to impress upon the foreign minister of Iran how important it was that we work together and we ensure that that investigation is complete," Trudeau said.
The prime minister is set to return to Canada on Saturday, but will be taking off again next week to continue his campaign for support for the UN Security Council seat that's up for grabs in June.