Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hesitated for just a moment before slamming the policies of Donald Trump during a town hall forum.
“I think it’s extremely important that somebody of my position doesn’t engage in the electoral processes of another country,” Trudeau cautioned. “However, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division.”
Trump, a U.S. Republican presidential candidate, has been railing against Islam andproposed banning all Muslims from immigrating to the United States.
Trudeau was fielding questions from the public and journalists in an hour-long town hall at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, which was hosted by Maclean’s magazine journalist Paul Wells.
Trudeau said Muslims are one of the greatest victims of terrorism around the world and that extending the sins of the Islamic State group to all Muslims is “irresponsible.”
One of Trudeau’s biggest challenges early in his government has been defending his decision to pull out Canadian fighter jets from the mission against Islamic State.
“There is no military solution,” he said during the town hall, adding that the path lies in a combination of military and humanitarian efforts.
He added he has had a few “good conversations” with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has asked allied nations to commit troops to the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.
Trudeau insists Obama has not asked him to provide fighter jets. Instead, he said the past decade in Afghanistan has given Canadian military the experience they need to train local troops.
He added that the “politics of fear” during the election campaign “bugged” him.
“(There) shouldn’t be a contradiction between what it takes to keep us safe and what it takes to keep us Canadian,” he said.
Trudeau dismissed criticisms from both journalists and the public that his governing style is soft-spoken and relies heavily on charm.
“It’s not about image, it’s about substance,” he said. “It’s a mistake to equate understanding ‘soft power’ with weakness.”
But that didn’t stop him from answering some softball questions. After taking a group of kids from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to see the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Trudeau was in the envious position of giving away some spoilers.
“I can’t tell you what happened but, oh, it’s so good,” he said.
One Canadian had a very specific question: Why does he always wear the same shoes?
“I like my socks, but I give no thoughts to my shoes,” he said.
An emotional exchange with the aunt of a missing indigenous girl prompted the Prime Minister to reiterate the need for big changes between the federal government and indigenous Canadians.
“I certainly hope to find answers in your case and so many others,” he said. “But what’s most important is that we recognize that this is a problem that we face together.”