Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron talk about freedom of expression

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Criticized even in his country, Justin Trudeau tries to clarify his position on freedom of expression. He defended the latter during a telephone interview, Thursday, November 5, with Emmanuel Macron, his cabinet announced after statements by the Canadian Prime Minister that sparked a lively controversy.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has expressed Canada’s solidarity with the French people following the recent terrorist attacks and acts of violence,” Justin Trudeau’s cabinet said in a statement. “The two leaders agreed on the importance of defending freedom of expression and human rights, and their common commitment to counter terrorism and violent extremism,” the statement added.

We owe it to ourselves to act with respect

The tone between Justin Trudeau and the French president was “cordial”, assured Agence France-Presse a source close to the Canadian Prime Minister, without specifying who was at the origin of the phone call. Justin Trudeau has found himself under fire in Canada after saying on Friday that freedom of speech was “not without limits”, in response to a question about the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad as he did Charlie Hebdo.

“We owe it to ourselves to act with respect for others and to seek not to arbitrarily or unnecessarily injure those with whom we are in the process of sharing a society and a planet,” he said. He thus distanced himself from the position of Emmanuel Macron who firmly defended the right to caricature in the name of freedom of expression.

The Prime Minister of Quebec thanked by Macron

Justin Trudeau had already been criticized for having delayed officially reacting to the beheading on October 16 by an Islamist of a French teacher, Samuel Paty, who had shown his students caricatures of the prophet of Islam. The Canadian leader has since tried to qualify his remarks, reaffirming Tuesday that he pledged to “always defend freedom of expression” and specifying that he did not condemn the publication of the cartoons in France.

Since Friday, part of the Canadian opposition has accused him of a “lack of courage” on freedom of expression. The leader of the separatists of the Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet even ordered him Thursday to present his “apologies” to Emmanuel Macron.

The Prime Minister of Quebec François Legault said he was “totally at odds” with Justin Trudeau on the issue of freedom of expression and had given unfailing support to Emmanuel Macron. François Legault was then pleased to have, unlike Justin Trudeau, to have received a call from the French president thanking him for his “clear position” on this issue.

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