Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

PETAWAWA, Ont. — President Donald Trump's suggestion that four female members of Congress should go back where they came from if they don't like America wouldn't fly in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

Trudeau avoided using Trump's name when he was asked about the president's Twitter comments at an appearance at a military base in eastern Ontario with the secretary-general of NATO.

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But the prime minister said Canadians and people around the world "know exactly what I think about those particular comments.

"That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians and we will continue to defend that."

Trump didn't name his targets, but he's widely understood to have been talking about Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (who was born there), Rashida Tlaib of Michigan (born in Detroit), Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts (born in Chicago) and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota (who was born in Somalia and moved to the United States with her parents as a child).

All four women are Democrats and well out in the left wing of their party. All are relatively young for politicians — at 45, Tlaib is the oldest. All four are people of colour.

On the weekend, Trump tweeted that the legislators should return to the "broken and crime-infested" countries they came from, fix those places, and maybe come back to the U.S. when they have lessons to teach.

On Monday, he amplified his views. Resurrecting language not prevalent in the U.S. for decades, Trump said that if the lawmakers "hate our country," they "can leave" it.

"If you're not happy in the U.S., if you're complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now," he said. The lawmakers' criticism has been largely aimed at Trump and his administration's policies and actions.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declined to say anything about Trump's words.

"It's not for me to comment on that," he said.

But Stoltenberg said he welcomed Canada's leadership on advancing "gender issues" in the military, which will include Canada deploying a female brigadier-general to lead the NATO training mission in Iraq later this year.

Asked about the prospect of serving in a high military office in male-dominated Iraq, Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan said her presence will serve as an example to Iraqi women.

"I think it will demonstrate that this is a possibility for everybody. That somebody who wants to get involved into military, or into operations or into security fields, that it's possible for everybody to do this," she said.

"Women are 50 per cent of the population and it is just normal that they be involved in the decisions that their country is making."

—With files from The Associated Press

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