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Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a long, 21-second pause when asked to comment on U.S. President Donald Trump's threat to use military force against protesters demonstrating against racial injustice.
After much visible hesitation, Trudeau avoided condemning Trump directly while addressing "systemic discrimination" in Canada.
"We all watch in horror and consternation at what is 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, when injustices continue despite progress over years and decades."
On Monday, Trump vowed to deploy the U.S. military in order to deal with the ongoing riots and demonstrations across the country. He warned that if cities or states don't take the actions necessary to control protesters, then the military would intervene to "quickly solve the problem for them."
When prompted again to explain why he didn't want to directly address Trump's actions, Trudeau said his job as prime minister is to focus on Canadians.
"Canadians need a government that will be there for them, that will support them and that will move us forward in the right direction, and I will do that," Trudeau said.
Trudeau's had a history of seeming cautiously reticent to outrightly criticize Trump—the president of Canada's largest trading partner—for his controversial remarks.
In 2017, he didn't mention Trump by name when condemning the violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, instead reminding Canadians that their country is not immune to racism. Trump received widespread criticism for going soft on the neo-Nazis, saying there were "some very fine people on both sides."
There was some mixed reaction on Tuesday to Trudeau's pause. Some called him out for failing to go far enough to denounce the U.S. president.
Others commended Trudeau for being careful not to drag Canada into a war of words with Trump, saying his silence spoke volumes.