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FOULDS: Trudeau's 21 seconds of silence were deafening in their impact

The prime minister's quiet response, and Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh's vocal reply, both served to convey a message of contempt for the actions of U.S, President Donald Trump.
Foulds Christopher column head

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau continues to get criticized for his delayed response to a question this past week from CBC’s Tom Parry regarding U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to use the military to quell protests in various American cities.

Parry had a second query: ““If you don’t want to comment, what message do you think you are sending?”

Trudeau then stood at the podium in front of his Ottawa residence and said nothing for 21 seconds. What the critics fail to realize is that more was said in those 21 seconds of silence than could ever be said by railing — yet again — against the bellicose president.

It was a brilliant response by Trudeau for those who understand nuance, something the Orange Menace in the White House could not pronounce, much less define.

The silence was deafening and served to send an obvious message to all but the most obtuse, which would include the 45th president of the United States — the third of a minute of hush was his response, a definitive rebuke to all things Trump, even if Trump and others did not realize it.

In other words, the 21 seconds of silence in response to Parry’s question served as the response, translated as, “What do you think I think of Trump’s actions?”

Indeed. What else but disgust and contempt and despair can describe what any person with common sense thinks of the words and actions of the president?

For a prime minister to vocalize the obvious in words Trump can understand serves no purpose other than to provoke an unlearned, unread, uncouth, unhinged Strong Man leader who would revert to his base bully instinct and try, somehow, to punish Canada economically.

Trump has done it before, insisting in a conversation with Trudeau that the U.S had a trade deficit with Canada, then boasting to supporters at a fundraising dinner in Missouri that he was lying and had no idea on which side the trade deficit stood.

The problem is such lies become headlines and the fake information generated by the most powerful man in the free world then leads to talk, if not implementation, of tariffs and duties that affect working men and women of all stripes in Canada and beyond.

So, offer a stunningly effective 21 seconds of silence as what you think of the performance of the president, knowing that message will get across to many? Or say aloud what most know to be true, but risk having the insecure bully in the White House react in a way that harms Canada?

There are times to speak out and there are times to be tactical.

When he did speak, after those powerful 21 seconds, the prime minister was measured in his response and what he said was truth.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States," he said. "It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen, it is a time to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades. But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges, that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day."

At about the same time Trudeau was letting the obvious marinate in silence, Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh was echoing in a public council meeting the thoughts of so many.

““I’m horribly upset by the actions of the U.S. president,” Singh said, referencing Trump’s comments, tweets and actions.

That Singh spoke out is good. Skeptics and critics may note that the words of a city councillor are not likely to have much political power in the grand scheme of things, but they matter nonetheless.

I was critical of Singh for spending too long on the fence when he was president of the Union of BC Municipalities and was dealing with the controversy involving the organization accepting money from the totalitarian Chinese government in exchange for the government being able to host a reception at the UBCM convention in Vancouver.

This occurred after the Chinese government kidnapped and imprisoned two Canadian citizens and enacted harsh trade sanctions against Canada as part of the Meng Wanzhou affair.

Singh deferred to dialogue amongst the UBCM executive, but he was the president and should have made his stance clear to constituents. Unlike the Trudeau situation, China had already taken action against Canada; a critical comment from the head of a municipalities organization in B.C. was not likely to exacerbate that situation — but it would have set in stone the convictions of the president and organization and made it clear the actions of a corrupt regime were unacceptable.

We need more politicians like the Arjun Singh we saw at city council this past week, one who speaks out, when necessary, about injustices. We need more politicians like the Justin Trudeau we saw in Ottawa this past week, one who speaks out in a crucially different manner, when necessary, about injustices.

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds