“Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack.”
With these strong, intentional words, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his remarks in the House of Commons the day after a shooting at a Quebec City mosque which killed six worshippers and left five critically injured.
By using the word “terrorist” to describe the shooter – a 27 year-old white man with Canadian nationality – Trudeau drove home the message that anyone who undertakes a such a heinous hate crime is, by definition, a terrorist, regardless of their nationality, of the colour of their skin, or of their faith.
Over the course of his remarks, it became clear that – even if he did not say so directly – Trudeau was delivering a message not just to Canadians, but to the current US administration as well. An administration whose approach since taking office has been one that seems largely focussed on inciting fear of Muslims, evidenced at least in part by their recent ban of thousands of Muslim immigrants and refugees from around the world — it has been speculated that the ban itself may have been a factor in inciting the Quebec crime.
Canada, Trudeau explained, holds a different viewpoint than that of the Trump government.
The attack, he said, was an attack “on our most intrinsic and cherished values as Canadians. Values of openness, diversity, and freedom of religion. “
Emphasizing that Canada is an accepting nation, Trudeau described Canadians as people “who are kind, who are generous, and who embrace one another not in spite of differences, but because of them.”
He explained that Canadians will not be broken by the violence but instead will use it to strengthen our sense of unity.
“The people who commit these acts mean to test our resolve and weaken our values,” he said. “They aim to divide us, to sew discord and plant hatred. We will not close our minds, we will open our hearts. “
Trudeau then addressed Muslim Canadians directly:
“We are with you — 36 million hearts are breaking with yours. Know that we value you. You enrich our shared country in immeasurable ways, it is your home….We will grieve with you, we will defend you, we will love you, and we will stand with you….We will not meet violence with more violence, we will meet fear and hatred with love and compassion.”
Later in the week, the Trudeau government demanded that Fox News rectify their story that the Quebec shooter had been of Moroccan origin, showcasing their determination that this crime not perpetuate the stereotype that terrorists are solely those from the Middle East and Africa.
For standing up for what Canadians believe in, for bringing a nation together instead of driving it apart, and for helping communities across the country to begin to heal, we chose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as our Speak of the Week.