Standing at the Rideau Cottage podium Monday (June 8) morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to do more to fight systemic racism and police brutality in Canada.
The prime minister has said he watched with “horror and consternation” the police brutality and anti-Black racism in the US., but has been criticized for inaction north of the border. The Liberal government received a failing grade from advocates for its lack of action on the National Inquiry in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls, one year after its completion.
On Monday, Trudeau said he will propose equipping police with body-worn cameras to the country’s premiers this week. The prime minister said he discussed the issue with the federal RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki earlier this morning.
“The reality is that many people in this country simply do not feel protected by the police. In fact, they’re afraid of them,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said Lucki promised “quick, solid action” on how Black Canadians and Indigenous Canadians are treated by police. Trudeau’s words come amid several high-profile, police-involved deaths and assaults.
On Thursday, Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman, was killed by police during a wellness check in New Brunswick.
Last week, photos emerged of Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam’s bruised and bloody face as a result of an alleged RCMP assault. Adam said his arrest that he says began over expired vehicle registration tags and ended with him facing charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police.
In late May, the family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman in Toronto, alleged the police were at fault after she fell from a 24th-floor apartment. Ontario’s police watchdog is investigating.
Questioned about his attendance of an anti-racism rally in Ottawa where he was seen taking a knee, Trudeau said it was important for him to be there despite COVID-19 restrictions on mass gatherings.
“We are trying to balance very important competing interests,” he said of the balance between forbidding large gatherings amid fears of COVID-19 transmission, but still speaking out against racism.
At a later press conference, chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it was “unrealistic” for health officials to think people will not protest during a pandemic. Tam said people should assess their own personal risks, as well as wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.
“Public health will be watching very carefully for any increases in transmission because it is setting of risk,” she said. Protesters should monitor and contact their local public health officials if they are concerned about exposure.
However, although COVID-19 is an obvious public health issue, Tam said racism and inequality also affects people’s health.
“Racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism – all those manifestations of stigma and discrimination impact health.”
Tam said discrimination can affect people’s ability to get health care, the amount of violence a person suffers, and lead to chronic stress.
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