MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 2:04 p.m.) Despite his host’s widely known aversion to any talk of human rights, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he brought up not only the topic but also extrajudicial killings blamed on the Philippine war on drug with a “receptive” President Rodrigo Duterte.
At a press briefing Tuesday, November 14, Trudeau said he had the opportunity to talk to Duterte before Canada’s meeting with leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states earlier that morning.
“I emphasized people-to-people ties with Canada and the Philippines and mentioned human rights, the rule of law and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue Canada is concerned with,” Trudeau said.
Ahead of the ASEAN summit, Duterte had said he would reject any attempt, including by U.S. President Donald Trump, to question him on human rights and his war on drugs, which some tallies estimate has claimed upwards of 13,000 lives and counting since last year.
Asked about Duterte’s reaction to his bringing up the sensitive issues, Trudeau described it as “receptive” and their encounter as a “cordial and positive exchange.”
“Canada has earned a reputation for being able to have strong, and sometimes frank discussions on the rule of law and human rights with partners around the world,” Trudeau said.
The Canadian leader also said he offered Duterte Canada’s help and support on improving the human rights situation in the country.
“As I mentioned to President Duterte, we are concerned with human rights (and) extrajudicial killings, and impressed accordingly the need for respect to the rule of law. And, as always, offered Canada’s support and help as a friend to move forward this challenge. This is the way we engage in theworld,” Trudeau said.
He stressed that Canada has always been a country that does not fail to bring up human rights issues.
“Countries around the world know that when you engage with Canada you will hear about human rights,” he said. “So we know that talking about human rights is an essential part of a path forward. It has to be done in an honest and frank way, but it has to be done. We have to talk about the high expectations. We must protect life to uphold rule of law and human rights.”
He later acknowledged that there was more work to be done on human rights and explained Canada’s approach in engaging other countries on the matter.
“We’re always looking at, not how we can shake our finger and yell at people, but how we can help, how we can move forward in a way that reduces violence, that emphasizes the rule of law, and ensures protection to all … citizens,” he said.