Trudeau calls attacks on Jewish institutions 'acts of terrorism'

In an unusually candid interview, the prime minister also opened up about his political future and his recent separation from wife Sophie Grégoire

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OTTAWA Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attacks against Jewish institutions in recent days acts of terrorism and said that more police protection is needed to protect places of worship given the raging conflict in the Middle East.

In an unusually candid interview with Quebec news station Noovo, Trudeau was asked to comment on the increasing tensions in Canada amid the Israel-Hamas war, but also opened up about his political future and his recent separation from wife Sophie Grégoire.

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The prime minister was asked by host Michel Bherer if he agreed with Quebec education minister Bernard Drainville that the gunshots fired at two Jewish schools in Montreal were acts of terrorism.

“Yes, absolutely,” said Trudeau, in French. “To do things just to create fear among a (specific) population with an ideological or political goal, that is terrorism. So it will take more police protection, more investments, and we’re doing that right now to protect mosques and synagogues.”

“But what we really need is for people to remember who we really are. What we saw at Concordia, young Jews lamenting the hostages, to attack them or make them responsible for what is happening on the other side of the planet, that’s not us,” he added.

Israel has reportedly agreed to four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting in Gaza, but Trudeau hinted in the interview with Noovo that “a few hours” might not be enough to allow food, water and aid to make its way to the highly populated area.

Trudeau said he also did not agree with calls for a ceasefire, saying there are many problems with the idea. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly previously said that Canada agrees with France on the need to “work for a ceasefire” but did not call for one directly.

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“A ceasefire must be negotiated between both parties,” said Trudeau. “Hamas is not interested in negotiating, not interested in releasing hostages. Israel has the right to defend itself, but all our pressure on the international stage on Israel is to do more to prevent the death of innocents.”

Trudeau dismissed suggestions that Canada was losing influence on the world stage, and said that it has “even more influence” than before.

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Speaking on the state of the Liberal party in the polls, the prime minister admitted that the current economic situation, with higher grocery prices and higher interest rates, is “tough” for everyone and understands that many are ready to point their fingers at the government.

He said, however, there is a difference between voters expressing their discontent towards his party in the polls and contemplating the possibility of a Conservative government.

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Trudeau reiterated that there is “no doubt” in his mind he would stay on as leader for the next election, whenever it may be, arguing “there is so much work, still, to do” and the choice of the next government will be an “almost existential” choice for Canadians.

Last week, P.E.I. Senator and former prime minister Jean Chrétien’s chief of staff Percy Downe called on Trudeau to take a “walk in the snow” and consider stepping down, as his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau had done before he decided to step down nearly 40 years ago. Coincidentally, the Noovo interview consisted of a walk in the snow.

Trudeau said that Canadians were just starting to see the effects of his government’s policies on climate change, reconciliation and helping more women enter the workforce, eight years later.

“We’re in the process of changing things, but it’s still vulnerable, it’s not solid yet,” he said.

He also took a dig at his main opponent, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who he will be facing during the next election. “To have an adversary who spends his time saying that Canada is broken, that everything sucks, that we should just abandon everything … come on!”

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Bherer then went on to ask Trudeau about his family life, given that he and his wife publicly announced their separation only three months ago.

“It’s tough,” admitted Trudeau. He said his decision to stay on as prime minister came at a “price” for his three children, but said he was committed to co-parent and stay friends with Gregoire, while ensuring he spends as much time as possible as a family.

“If I can’t be a good dad, how can I be a good prime minister?” he asked.

Trudeau reflected his own parents’ divorce, saying it was “difficult” but that his father was “extraordinary” even though he was so consumed with work. He also said he would give “anything” to be able to speak to his father again, not about politics, but as father and son.

Trudeau was then asked what he would want to do after his time in politics. “I see myself working with young people, go back to teaching or as a professor in university, a speaker, maybe on technology in relation to our democracy,” he said.

“I’m excited for the next chapter, but not right away.”

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