National Newswatch

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is condemning fear-mongering by politicians, calling it ignorant and irresponsible.

In a televised town hall meeting sponsored by Maclean's magazine, the prime minister was asked about his reaction to outspoken American presidential candidate Donald Trump.

He first shied away from commenting on another country's election, saying Canada must have a relationship with whoever wins next year's presidential vote.

However, he said, he is happy to share his feelings on the politics of division.

Diversity, he says, makes people stronger, not weaker.

Fear, he adds, doesn't make anyone safer.

"I don't think it comes as a surprise to anybody that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric," he said.

Trump, the boisterous businessman who is leading in the polls among candidates for the Republican nomination, has attacked immigration and suggested that Muslims be barred from entering the United States.

Without mentioning Trump's name, Trudeau decried his politics.

"If we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don't actually end up any safer," he said. "Fear doesn't make us safer, it makes us weaker. At this time, when there is reason to be concerned for security around the world and here at home, we need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and keeping our communities united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities."

Muslims, he said are the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world.

"Painting ISIS and others with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant, it is irresponsible."

Trudeau also spoke about ways of dealing with the international community that look back to the "soft power" of earlier Liberal regimes and not the harsh rhetoric of the last Conservative government.

The Harper government "spent a lot of time talking about strength and tough and taking swings at all of its opponents," the prime minister said.

"I took a very different approach that was much more inclusive, much friendlier, much more focused on listening and engaging and solving problems rather than creating conflicts and Canadians responded very positively to that," Trudeau said.

"Now, why would citizens in the international community be any different?"

He said you don't always need to be tough.

"So, I don't see being smart and reasonable in how we engage with others as a sign of weakness."

During the hour-long program at the National Arts Centre, the prime minister fielded questions from journalists, the audience and people on social media.

He was quizzed on everything from tax policy to refugees, to his shoes and the latest "Star Wars" movie — which he said was very good.

The Canadian Press
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