Justin Trudeau literally fell silent for over 20 seconds before commenting on U.S. President Donald Trump‘s desire to use military force to quell George Floyd racial injustice protests across the country. The Canadian prime minister was asked on June 2 about the situation to the south, and for 21 long seconds he stood at a podium looking for the right words. He had a couple of moments where it looked like he was about to offer up his thoughts, only to keep searching for a powerful yet diplomatic answer. It was such a noticeably long pause that his name became a top trending topic on Twitter.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 2, 2020
A reporter asked the 48-year-old, “You’ve been reluctant to comment on the words and actions of the U.S. president. But we do have Donald Trump now calling for military action against protestors. We saw protestors tear-gassed yesterday to make way for a presidential photo-op.”
That was in reference to police firing tear gas and rubber bullets on a crowd of peaceful protesters in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park, so that Trump had a clear path from the White House to do a photo op in front of a church while holding a Bible in the air (upside down and backwards nonetheless).
The reporter even gave Justin an out if he didn’t want to speak on the issue, continuing, “I’d like to ask you what you think about that. And if you don’t want to comment, what kind of message do you think you are sending?” Justin then took his time…a full 21 seconds as he pursed his lips, furrowed his eyebrows and at one point said “I think” before pausing again.
“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States. It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen,” he began. “It is a time to learn what injustice is, despite progress over years and decades. But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges.” He then went on to acknowledge that there is “systematic discrimination in Canada,” but never circled back around to directly address Trump by name.
On June 1 before Trump’s church photo-op, he gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden where he took a very hard line against protests that turned violent, calling them “domestic acts of terror” and promised that law enforcement would “dominate the streets” to shut them down. Then he made the extraordinary claim that he would activate the U.S. military against the country’s own citizens by saying, “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”