Prime Minister Justin Trudeau focused on the strength of Canada’s relationship with Cuba when challenged in the House of Commons today about his his weekend remarks on the death of Fidel Castro, which many criticized as too glowing.
Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said in the Commons that many Canadians were “astonished” by the comments made by the prime minister on behalf of all Canadians. The conservative leader criticized Trudeau for referring to Castro as “remarkable” and argued he neglected the oppression the Cuban people faced under the former Cuban president’s leadership.
“What was he thinking?” Ambrose asked the House.
But instead of repeating or defending any of what he said on the weekend about Castro, Trudeau changed tack.
“The relationship between the Canadian people and the Cuban people has long been established,” Trudeau said. “The fact is Canadians well know that whenever I am anywhere on the world stage I bring up human rights, as I did a week and a half ago when I was in Cuba.”
Moments later he repeated exactly the same comments in French.
Trudeau made the initial comments in an official statement about Castro’s death issued from Madagascar, where he was attending the summit of the Francophonie. At the beginning of his statement, Trudeau noted his “deep sorrow” in hearing the news of the “remarkable” leader’s passing.
“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante,” Trudeau said in his official statement Saturday.
Since the statement’s release, the prime minister has been met with both national and international scorn. In the firestorm online, Trudeau was accused of privileging his family ties to Castro and disregarding the historic oppression of by Cuban regime.
In 1976, Pierre Elliot Trudeau toured Cuba and met with Fidel Casto in a momentous three-day trip. As a consequence, the two leaders formed a political bond and friendship. Upon Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s death, Castro travelled to Canada for his funeral.
Justin Trudeau made a visit to Cuba earlier this month. It was the first official trip made by a prime minister since 1998. During the visit, Trudeau met with Raul Castro, the current Cuban president and brother of Fidel Castro.
At a press conference in Madagascar, Trudeau said that he raised human rights concerns when he met with Raul Castro.
“Canadians know that I always talk about human rights, including here yesterday, including with Raul Castro two weeks ago and wherever I go around the world.”