POLITICS

Trudeau Caught Off Guard By Taliban Question At Press Conference

06/19/2013 04:37 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 04:39 EDT

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mistook a CBC journalist for a Sun News reporter after an unexpected question about the Taliban on Wednesday.

Trudeau appeared at a press conference alongside Bob Rae, who announced he was resigning his seat to work as chief negotiator for several First Nations groups in Ontario. The Liberal leader appeared at least momentarily puzzled after the focus shifted to a U.S. plan to open direct talks with the fundamentalist group.

"Mr. Trudeau, is there wisdom in talking to the Taliban sir? Would you answer that please?" the reporter asked. "Is there wisdom in talking to the Taliban? The U.S. is engaging the Taliban. My people are asking me to ask that to you, sir."

"Yes, yes, your Sun News people, I know," Trudeau replied, to some chuckles from Rae.

"No, I’m CBC, sir," the reporter said. "That’s per request."

Trudeau answered that "engaging constructively around the world" is crucial.

"I believe in diplomacy, I believe in conversations but I also believe that Canada’s security needs to be first and foremost," he said. "We have to make sure we are not weakening."

Trudeau added he was pleased the G8 came forward with a resolution saying nations should not pay ransoms to terrorists.

CBC politics reporter Rosemary Barton quickly tweeted about the exchange.

A Twitter follower asked Barton if it was appropriate to ask such a question at a press conference for Rae.

"You get questions," Barton wrote. "You don’t get to decide which ones."

Trudeau was criticized in April for telling CBC host Peter Mansbridge in the wake of the Boston bombing that we should examine the "root causes" of terror attacks.

"Now, we don't know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue." Trudeau said. "But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?"

Conservatives immediately used the "root causes" quip as evidence the Liberal leader is, as attack ads suggest, "in over his head."

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney threw similar jabs at Trudeau in May after a British soldier was brutally murdered in London by men believed to be Islamist extremists.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was also asked about the U.S. plans to engage in diplomatic talks with the Taliban during a press conference Wednesday.

Mulcair said it has been the position of the NDP for seven years that talking to the Taliban in Afghanistan is "the only way forward to peace."

Mulcair brought up how former NDP Leader Jack Layton was mocked as "Taliban Jack" for wanting all sides at the table negotiating peace in Afghanistan.

"I’m glad to see the American administration is starting to realize the same thing because, you know what, we have to try to find peace in that country that has known nothing but war for the better part of 35 years," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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