Trudeau meets with Edmonton police, community leaders

Trudeau meets with Edmonton police, community leaders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended his visit to Alberta to meet with Edmonton community leaders and police officers on Saturday.

Trudeau travelled to the province Friday to throw his support behind Brian Gold, the Liberal byelection candidate for Sturgeon River-Parkland. Conservative MP Rona Ambrose formerly held the Edmonton-area seat.

On Saturday, Trudeau toured the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, which helps immigrants and refugees integrate into Canada, and then visited the Edmonton Police Service Downtown Division.

The prime minister's visit is his first to Edmonton since a series of violence in events in Edmonton's downtown on Sept. 30, which saw a police officer stabbed and four pedestrians run down on the street.

Trudeau met privately with members of the Edmonton Police Service late Saturday morning, including Const. Mike Chernyk.

Chernyk sustained injuries to his head and neck after man slammed his car into the officer and then stabbed him multiple times.

Police released video of the incident, in which an injured Chernyk appears to wrestle with his attacker before chasing the man on foot.

Trudeau said he watched the footage in disbelief. 

​"There's no doubt that Const. Chernyk's swift and decisive action helped save lives that day," Trudeau said.

"It is a testament to his strength, but also to his training, and to the excellence of first responders right across this country that he was able to keep a cool head in the most chaotic and violent of circumstances."

Chernyk, a 10-year veteran officer, returned to work Thursday. His conversation with Trudeau was closed to media.

At a press conference following his meeting with police, Trudeau described the attack on Edmonton as an act of terrorism.

"I know that the terrorist attack earlier this month hit Edmonton and Edmontonians hard," he said.

"Though the attack itself is inexcusable, I'm proud of the way Edmontonians came together in the days and the weeks that followed."

Police have not laid terrorism charges against the suspect, though RCMP say they haven't ruled out laying such charges in the future.

Earlier this month, police did charge 30-year-old Abdulahi Hasan Sharif with five counts of attempted murder.

Scott Bardsley, press secretary for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, clarified Trudeau's statement in an email to CBC News.

"The Prime Minister has used consistent language to describe the attack," Bardsley said. "The incident is widely considered a terrorist attack. 

"The investigation is on-going," he added.

Following his statement on the attack in Edmonton, Trudeau addressed provincial issues such as the ban on facial coverings in Quebec and pipeline plans in Alberta.

"After 10 years of a government that was unable to approve significant pipelines, we've moved ahead on approving two big ones," Trudeau said.

"We know that getting our oil resources to new markets, particularly out across the Pacific, is going to be essential so that we can support the good jobs in the energy industry here in Alberta."

Trudeau credited Canada's dual emphasis on energy and the environment. 

"That is what allows us to move forward on approving pipelines like the Trans Mountain pipeline because they're in the national interest," he said. 

- Trudeau reluctant to reveal too much on Quebec's face-covering law: Aaron Wherry 

- ANALYSIS Trudeau's tightrope: PM blamed for failing planet and pipelines, all at the same time

Trudeau also hit back at Alberta's freshly minted United Conservative Party, responding to public criticism by members and leadership candidates.

He said he wants to focus on policy, not party politics.

"If other people want to pick fights, I think citizens have to ask themselves questions about what they want out of a government," Trudeau said. 

"Do they want governments that actually defend their interests and work together? Or do they want people who pick fights?"

Trudeau is expected to be in Ottawa for the next few days, a press secretary said.