Trudeau backtracks after controversial anti-free speech remark
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Prime Minister Trudeau faced heavy criticism recently after comments made concerning the beheading of Samuel Paty, a French schoolteacher who was murdered by Islamic terrorists after having shown his students a cartoon of Muhammad, prophet of the Muslim faith.
Shortly after the horrific act of violence, Trudeau was quoted by reporters as saying that he will “always defend freedom of expression...but freedom of expression is not without limits.” The Prime Minister then proceeded by bringing up the popular anti-free speech maxim: “We don't have the right, for example, to cry fire in a crowded cinema; there are always limits... 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."
Mr. Trudeau's comments were pounced upon by critics across the board, from the National Post's Colby Cosh, who stated that "...to compare that sort of regulated speech with the work of a schoolteacher in a classroom, explaining libertarian principles by means of some rude cartoons…reeks of second-guessing a murder victim," to Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who offered up his own response this Monday: “We cannot accuse people who have made cartoons of justifying violence in this way. I really totally disagree with Mr. Trudeau, we have to protect freedom of expression." French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron subsequently thanked Legault for backing his support for freedom of speech.
Other federal party leaders equally seized the opportunity to criticize the Prime Minister's remark. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole called Trudeau's comments "worrying," arguing that the Prime Minister was not effectively protecting freedom of expression, a fundamental "pillar of democracy." O'Toole was later reported as saying: “World leaders have been standing with President Macron and defending free speech. Why hasn’t this prime minister?”
Likewise, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet tweeted that the Prime Minister should correct himself, also taking the opportunity to share an article criticizing political Islam.
Mounting ire has forced the Prime Minister to withdraw from his controversial remark. During yesterday's Question Period, Mr. Trudeau stated: “Nothing justifies the horrific violence we saw last week and over the past weeks. Nothing justifies violence. Nothing justifies terrorism.”
The reversal comes amid mounting Islamic terrorism in Europe, including a knife attack in Nice that left 3 dead, and a shooting spree in Vienna on Monday that killed 4.