Trump’s word ‘an in­sult be­fore hu­man­ity,’ Michaëlle Jean says

The Hamilton Spectator - - WORLD & CANADA - COLIN PERKEL

For­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral Michaëlle Jean was among those Cana­di­ans who sharply crit­i­cized U.S. President Don­ald Trump on Fri­day for re­port­edly us­ing vul­gar lan­guage to de­scribe Haiti and coun­tries in Africa.

Jean, who was born in the Haitian cap­i­tal, Port-au-Prince, and is cur­rently sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion in­ter­na­tionale de la Fran­co­phonie, called Trump’s re­ported re­marks “in­sult­ing.”

“It was so dis­turb­ing this morn­ing to hear President Trump’s com­ments re­ported all over the news call­ing my poor na­tive land and African coun­tries ‘shit­hole’ na­tions,” Jean said in a state­ment to The Cana­dian Press. “It is such an in­sult be­fore hu­man­ity.”

Trump was widely re­ported on Thurs­day to have ques­tioned in a meet­ing with law­mak­ers why the United States should ac­cept more im­mi­grants from Haiti and “shit­hole coun­tries” in Africa rather than from places such as Nor­way.

On Fri­day morn­ing, Trump tweeted that he used “tough” lan­guage at the meet­ing, but not the re­ported vul­gar­ity. Still, Jean, who was Canada’s gov­er­nor gen­eral from 2005 to 2010, made no bones about her feel­ings.

“For the first rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the United States of Amer­ica to speak in such a man­ner is quite trou­bling and of­fen­sive,” Jean said in the state­ment.

Jean, a refugee from Haiti who came to Canada in 1968 and was raised in Thet­ford Mines, Que., also noted that Fri­day was the eighth an­niver­sary of a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake that struck her na­tive coun­try, one of 57 mem­ber French-lan­guage coun­tries — many from Africa — that form La Fran­co­phonie.

Speak­ing in Lon­don, Ont., Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said he would not “opine on what the president may or may not have said” but called Canada a coun­try of open­ness and re­spect.

Trump’s re­ported com­ments were also taken per­son­ally by Dr. An­drew Furey, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon in St. John’s, N.L., and founder of Team Bro­ken Earth, a group of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als who re­sponded to the Haitian earth­quake in 2010 and has since re­turned to the coun­try sev­eral times.

“In ad­di­tion to be­ing in­sult­ing to us, more im­por­tantly it’s quite dis­re­spect­ful and in­sult­ing to the peo­ple that we’re try­ing to help and the friends and col­leagues that we’ve made there over the last eight years,” Furey said in an in­ter­view. “It’s pro­foundly dis­ap­point­ing to hear some­one in that of­fice use that lan­guage.”

While Trump’s var­i­ous state­ments have fre­quently been deemed of­fen­sive, Furey said that’s no rea­son to ac­cept them. It’s in­cum­bent on ev­ery­one as global cit­i­zens, he said, to chal­lenge the president’s views on coun­tries out­side the U.S., es­pe­cially those that are poor and in need.

Some have de­fended Trump’s pro­nounce­ments as straight talk.

“Trump is ab­so­lutely right,” said Ma­mady Traore, 30, a so­ci­ol­o­gist in Guinea. “When you have heads of state who mess with the con­sti­tu­tions to per­pet­u­ate their power. When you have rebel fac­tions that kill chil­dren, dis­em­bowel women as saints, who mu­ti­late in­no­cent civil­ians.”

Others, like for­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Kim Camp­bell, de­nounced the president’s “abom­inable and ig­no­rant” views and state­ments. “(I) have known many fine Haitians — in­clud­ing a for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral of Canada,” Camp­bell said in a tweet. “Trump is un­wor­thy to speak of them!”

In Mon­treal, Mar­jorie Ville­franche, di­rec­tor of La Mai­son d’Haiti, a prom­i­nent cul­tural and com­mu­nity cen­tre, called the president’s views “ridicu­lous.”

The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s com­ments.

“Given the his­tor­i­cal re­al­ity of how many Africans ar­rived in the United States as slaves, this state­ment flies in the face of all ac­cepted be­hav­iour and prac­tice,” union spokesper­son Ebba Kalondo said. Botswana’s gov­ern­ment called Trump’s com­ment “rep­re­hen­si­ble and racist,” while Sene­gal’s President Macky Sall said he was shocked.

DAR­RYL DYCK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Michaëlle Jean is call­ing U.S. President Don­ald Trump’s re­marks on her na­tive coun­try as well as Africa dis­turb­ing, trou­bling and of­fen­sive.

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