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Canada-France Relations

[14:28]

Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Gold, a few weeks ago in France, a school teacher named Samuel Paty was beheaded on a street by an Islamist extremist for showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to his class. He was teaching them about the importance of freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Trudeau took 12 days to comment on that grisly terrorist crime. Last week, when he was asked about the right to show a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, he said that:

We will always defend freedom of expression.

But freedom of expression is not without limits. 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 sharing a society and a planet.

This week, President Macron of France, who full-throatedly defended freedom of speech in the wake of Mr. Paty’s slaying, personally called Premier Legault of Quebec to thank him for his unequivocal support for free expression.

My question to you, Senator Gold, is this: Have you heard from the PMO or any source as to whether the Prime Minister got a call from President Macron thanking him for his support of France in regard to Mr. Paty’s beheading, and if not, why do you think that is?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) 

[14:31]

You say, Senator Gold, that the Prime Minister spoke without equivocation. I’m not sure that is true. He did say freedom of expression is not without limits, although I do agree with you that he then recalibrated those statements yesterday. But would you agree that when there is an episode of jihadi violence, as there was in France last week, that it is inappropriate to suggest that the victims themselves are somehow to be blamed?

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