Credits: OHN LAPPA/THE SUDBURY STAR/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau was only half right when he invoked Wilfrid Laurier during his closely watched speech to the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto, an expert on Laurier said Sunday.
On Saturday Trudeau told a large group of Muslims that we needed to look back to the example of Wilfrid Laurier, his "second favourite prime minister," who managed to "find common ground between people of differing beliefs."
Laurier rejected the views of the religious elites of 19 century Quebec and built bridges with English-speaking Protestants to become Canada's first francophone prime minister and one of the country's most revered statesmen.
Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said Trudeau was right to invoke Laurier's spirit. But he pointed out that Laurier "succeeded by bringing together moderates of both sides, in part by appealing to the great liberal tradition of liberty.
"There is no compromise possible with those who do not share Canada's vision of a society based on freedom, the rule of law, inclusion and so forth," Crowley said.
Trudeau lashed out at his critics on Saturday, insisting it was "short-sighted to pit groups of Canadians against one another" and pledging to "always stand up to the politics of division and fear."
However, Crowley explained, the controversy surrounding the conference was not about politics but about connections to "radical Islamists who think Western 'liberty' is simply a sign of decadence and moral decay.
"Laurier would have recognized them as people to be called out and specifically excluded from the search for a modus vivendi suited to Canadian life," he said.