POLITICS
03/15/2019 13:40 EDT | Updated 03/15/2019 14:06 EDT

Andrew Scheer Condemns ‘Vile Hatred’ Behind New Zealand Attack While Skirting Around Islamophobia

The Tory leader's initial response ignored acknowledging prejudice against Muslims.

Chris Young/CP
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a press conference in Toronto on March 7, 2019.

OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer was an anomaly among major party leaders Friday for failing to immediately and explicitly denounce Islamophobia in the wake of attacks at two New Zealand mosques that has left at least 49 people dead.

The terrorist attacks happened in Christchurch. A gunman livestreamed parts of the rampage, shot at worshippers, and called immigrants "invaders."

The Conservative leader, who was among the first international politicians to respond, subscribed the deadly violence as an attack on "freedom."

Former prime minister Stephen Harper's director of communications suggested Scheer missed the mark.

Carleton journalism professor Paul Adams offered one explanation for the missing elements in Scheer's message.

The Conservative leader did not respond to HuffPost Canada's requests for comment. After publication, the party released a statement.

"Houses of worship, like the two mosques attacked last night, should be places where all people can meet freely and without fear," Scheer said.

"We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to ensure that they remain this way. We must condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the type of extreme and vile hatred that motivated this despicable act of evil."

Scheer ended his statement with a message for Muslim communities in Canada and internationally. The Conservative party is committed "to building a world where every people, of every faith, can live in freedom and peace together," he said.

Other Tories quicker to denounce violence toward Muslims

Attacks on freedom is political rhetoric that has been embraced by fringe conservative groups to amplify anti-globalist and anti-immigrant messages. In Canada, these viewpoints have been notably represented by Yellow Vests Canada, a spinoff group inspired from the French anti-government movement.

Yellow Vests Canada members have spread messages advocating violence against politicians and hatred toward Muslims. The group was associated with last month's United We Roll convoy, which culminated with a rally on Parliament Hill. Scheer and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier were invited speakers who addressed the crown on the main stage.

White nationalist Faith Goldy was also at the rally, but did not address the crowd from the main stage. She briefly gave some remarks from a scissor lift which served as an impromptu stage set on a flatbed truck parked on the street.

Some of the Scheer's federal conservative peers, such as Ontario Premier Doug Ford and former federal leadership candidates Michael Chong and Lisa Raitt, chose more explicit language off the bat.

'Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain' in places of worship: PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement Friday condemning the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques.

The gunman, whose identity has yet to be confirmed by police, reportedly had Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette's name written on a magazine clip, suggesting inspiration from the Canadian tragedy that killed six people and left 19 injured.

"Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest," Trudeau said. "Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer."

Trudeau continued to state how Canada will continue to work with New Zealand to "take action against violent extremism."

"Hate has no place anywhere," he said. "We must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people—no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born—can feel safe and secure."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also condemned Islamophobia explicitly.