Trudeau speaks with Macron amid furor over his response to attacks in France

·2 min read

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended free expression in a call with the president of France on Thursday, his office says.

The conversation with France's Emmanuel Macron came one week after three people were killed in a deadly knife assault in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

The incident was the third gruesome attack in five weeks that French authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, amid a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Trudeau "expressed Canada’s solidarity with the people of France following recent terrorist attacks and violence" and "agreed on the importance of defending freedom of expression and human rights and on their shared commitment to fighting terrorism and violent extremism," according to an official account of the call from the Prime Minister's Office.

Trudeau has faced criticism in both Canada and France that he has not done enough to defend free expression in response to extremist violence there.

Trudeau waited more than a week after the Oct. 16 beheading of a French school teacher before expressing solidarity with France, and hedged his condemnation of last week's knife attack by stressing that free speech has its limits.

That drew backlash from media in France and in Quebec, where politicians' unequivocal denunciations prompted a thank-you call Tuesday from Macron to Premier François Legault.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has pilloried Trudeau's tepid defence of free expression.

Earlier Thursday, he said the conversation between Trudeau and Macron kicks off a necessary healing process, but he said he feared Trudeau might come off as insincere.

The two leaders also talked about fighting COVID-19 and the importance of international institutions such as NATO, the G7 and the G20, the Prime Minister's Office reported.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2020.

The Canadian Press