OTTAWA — The terrorist attacks in Brussels became fodder Tuesday for politics as usual in Canada.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and other Tory MPs took the opportunity to hammer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government for being soft on terrorism.
They criticized the government for withdrawing Canadian fighter jets from the bombing campaign against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria.
They denounced Trudeau's election promise to repeal some measures in the Tories' anti-terrorism legislation, which gives security officials new powers to prevent and disrupt terrorist networks.
And they repeatedly pushed the government to explain why it refuses to declare that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is perpetrating "genocide" against religious minorities.
The Conservatives' line of questioning prompted Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion to say: "Today is not the day to make politics about that."
Conservative MP Jason Kenney, a former defence minister, asked if the government is prepared to declare, as French President Francois Hollande has done, that Canada is "at war" with ISIL, and why Canada has withdrawn from the aerial bombing mission.
Dion reiterated that the government has decided Canada can be more effective in the fight against ISIL by tripling efforts to train local forces, doubling intelligence efforts and boosting humanitarian aid.
"I hope the minister's not suggesting that President Hollande is making politics," Kenney retorted.
The raw politicking followed earlier expressions of grief, shock and solidarity with Belgium from politicians of all party stripes.
"I was outraged when I woke up to the news that so many innocent citizens had been killed and injured — shocked and profoundly saddened," Trudeau said after a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill.
"This cannot and will not be tolerated."
Ambrose said later that the new anti-terror tools the previous Conservative government gave security forces had been used successfully. She called on Trudeau to reverse his promises to scrap some provisions so that "security forces can keep Canadians safe from terrorism."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government intends to follow through on its election campaign commitment to "do everything in our power to make sure that our security and police services were effective in keeping Canadians safe and, at the same time, that Canadian values and rights and freedoms were thoroughly and properly respected."
"There is no contradiction between those positions," he said.
Earlier, Dion said Canada stands in solidarity with Belgium during what he called "black Tuesday." ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels that left at least 30 people dead and more than 180 wounded.
"Hearing the screams of children in the smoke of the Brussels metro only strengthens our resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms, and increases our solidarity with the people of Belgium and the whole of Europe," said Dion.
Goodale said the threat level in Canada will not be changed in wake of the attacks. It remains at medium, where it's been since October 2014, when two Canadian soldiers were killed in separate attacks at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
A visiting European politician called for a moment of silence on Parliament Hill at the start of a press conference at the main press theatre.
"Today is not really a happy day for the European Union and I think for many people worldwide," said German Social Democrat Bernd Lange, the chair of the European Parliament's trade committee.
Lange was leading a delegation to Ottawa to study the effects of the massive Canada-EU free trade deal, which is expected to be ratified early next year.
Artis Pabriks, the EU's rapporteur on the deal, said while good intelligence and co-operation between allies is essential for preventing terrorist attacks, Europe, Canada and the United States need to do more on that front.
"Violence and naked power should not be, and will not be the thing which will determine how we will live," added Pabriks, also Latvia's former defence minister.
"So we have to stand up to this — and we have to stand up together."
By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press