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Trudeau Apparently Pissed Off Philippines' Duterte With Drug War Criticism

Thousands have been killed in Duterte's anti-drug campaign, including users and dealers.

Allison Tierney

Allison Tierney

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (photo by CP/Adrian Wyld)

After urging from a coalition of Canadian and Filipino activists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reportedly addressed the Philippines’ deadly drug war with President Rodrigo Duterte. The war has left at least 7,000 dead, including people who used drugs and drug dealers.

"Canada has earned a reputation for being able to have strong and frank, sometimes firm, discussions around the rule of law and human rights with its partners. It's very much what people expect of Canada and it comes as no surprise when we bring it up," Trudeau told reporters at a news conference while on his trip to Asia.

"The president was receptive to my comments, and it was, throughout, a cordial and positive exchange."

But it appears Duterte took the conversation in a different way than Trudeau did. Though he didn't name Trudeau, the Philippines' president said the following at the end of the summit Trudeau had been in Asia to attend:

“I said I will not explain. It is a personal and official insult,” Duterte said. “I only answer to the Filipino. I will not answer to any other bullshit, especially foreigners. Lay off.”

Trudeau had the conversation with Duterte in a closed-door meeting, Bloomberg Politics reports. “I also mentioned human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with,” Trudeau said.

Both police and vigilantes have been involved in killings of people who use drugs and drug dealers in the Philippines. The Philippine government claims killings carried out by police have been legal due to “self-defence.”

Trudeau said the interaction with Duterte was “cordial,” which goes against what the Philippine president warned his reaction would be if criticized on domestic matters via a foreign leader.

“You want to ask a question, I'll give you an answer: Lay off. That is not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country, and I will nurture my country to health," Duterte recently told media when asked how he would respond to such criticism.

Canadian government officials had previously warned that Trudeau might not have the opportunity to address human rights issues one-on-one with Duterte while on his trip to Manila. They suggested that the Philippines had “gone out on a limb” to extend an invitation to Trudeau for the East Asia Summit. Trudeau was the first sitting Canadian prime minister to attend the summit.

Trudeau’s conversation with Duterte comes after silence on human rights issues surrounding the drug war from Donald Trump when he met with Philippines’ president recently. Trump had previously praised Duterte on a call earlier this year. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump said in the April 29 phone call, according to a leaked transcript.

This story has been updated with additional comments from Duterte at the end of the summit.