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Trudeau defends decision to attend protest with thousands, breaking his own social distancing rules

"Even as we protest and demonstrate in order to create a better world. We have to get that balance right ... It was the right choice," Trudeau said.
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed media on Monday outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa to provide insight on the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as discussing several ongoing social issues taking place in much of the western world.

It was an eventful past week for the prime minister, who was seen kneeling at the Ottawa Black Lives Matter protests on Friday in a large crowd, breaking the message of social distancing that he had pushed for several months prior.

Trudeau addressed the matter right off the bat, stating: "On Friday, I went to a rally on Parliament Hill to show my support and listen to our community leaders and what black Canadians are calling for. I hear you, and I see you. As you call out systemic discrimination, racism, and unconscious bias; as you call for action, as you call for it now... I'm ready to take action."

"The reality is, many people in this country simply to do not feel protected by the police, and in fact, they're afraid of them. That alone would be bad enough, but systemic discrimination and racism in Canada goes much further than just policing," the prime minister continued.

"It's about poverty, and mental health. It's about the fact that all too often, people are treated like criminals instead of receiving the support that they need. We, as governments, need to work together.

Trudeau would then go on to list a number of previous investments made by his administration towards black and Indigenous communities.

Trudeau said an ongoing discussion with Cabinet would continue later today, and said that he has been in contact with RCMP officials. Trudeau said he was committed to raising the idea of body cameras for policing to the provincial premiers.

Trudeau also announced "a limited exception" that family members of citizens or permanent residents would be allowed to enter the country. A strict 14-day quarantine would be in effect for visitors, Trudeau said.

Trudeau breaks his own social distance rules

Trudeau was quickly asked why he attended the protests on Friday when hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been told to stay at home.

Trudeau said that "thousands" of Canadians made their way out to "highlight deep concerns." He credited those who visited for wearing masks and largely following social distancing.

"Even as we protest and demonstrate in order to create a better world. We have to get that balance right, and I continue to exhort Canadians to do just that," he continued.

When asked why he could go out in public in groups while restaurant owners could not sell pizza on their patio, Trudeau said that there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered, but pointed to countries such as South Korea, saying that as some measures are loosened, that continued social distancing and masks were necessary, as well as contact tracing and exposure notification.

"All this is difficult and frustrating... But at the same time, we know that the cost of having to return into social isolation... because of a massive resurgent, is not one that anyone wants to bear, and that's why we're being very cautious going forward," the prime minister said.

Trudeau emphasized that it would be a challenge to scale out action to create a better world to contain the virus.  

Regarding his decision to join the rally, Trudeau said that it was "important" for him to attend, saying that he followed social distancing measures "as best" as he could.

"For me, it was important that I be there to hear," the prime minister stated.

Taking a knee

Trudeau made headlines after taking a knee at Friday's rally, though many Canadians still called for systemic changes and concrete solutions. To which, Trudeau referred to his hopes to make body cameras a reality, and ensuring that long-standing inequalities such as poverty were better addressed.

"As a cabinet, as a country, we will have many important conversations, but I hear very clearly, as much as we've made strong efforts in the past years... It hasn't been enough."

Regarding RCMP budgets, Trudeau said there was always a need to "review every public dollar spent," saying that his priority was to keep Canadians safe.

Trudeau also said that Canada needed to do a better job at taking care of foreign workers, as two had recently died from coronavirus.

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Roberto Wakerell-Cruz
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