TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump incited an assault on democracy by violent rioters — a rare direct criticism of Trump by him.

Trudeau has been careful not to criticize Trump over the last four years as 75% of Canada’s exports go to America, but Trudeau told reporters on Friday that Trump and other politicians are to blame for an event he called “shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly saddening.”

“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said.

He said that democracy is not automatic — it takes work every day — and that it’s a real accomplishment to have a political system in which the losing side gracefully concedes.

But Trudeau said democracy is resilient in America, Canada’s closet ally.

Trudeau said Canadians expect “debate that is grounded in shared acceptance of the facts.”


Asked if he worries his comments could damage relations with Republicans, Trudeau said: “It’s extremely important that we be there to defend democracy,”

“Words have consequences. Choices made by people in power can have direct impact on behaviors and institutions,” he added.

Trudeau and Trump have largely got along, but Trump previously called Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest.” And Trump vowed to make Canada pay after Trudeau said he wouldn’t be bullied in trade talks. Trump threatened tariffs on cars and imposed them on steel and aluminum.