'The status quo is unacceptable,' Trudeau says of racism in Canada

 

OTTAWA -- As long-standing anger about discrimination boils over in the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians must recognize there is systemic racism in their own country.

Speaking during his daily news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau says many don't see this bias but it is a reality for visible minorities in Canada.

Trudeau was asked about the protests in the U.S. and President Donald Trump's talk of deploying the military to stop the unrest.

He paused a full 20 seconds, lips pursed, jaw working, before saying that despite watching the United States with "horror and consternation," Canadians must be aware of the challenges facing black Canadians and other minorities and take steps to address them.

"Together, we will keep taking meaningful action against racism and discrimination in every form," he said. "The status quo, where people face violence because of the colour of their skin, is unacceptable."

The comments follow days of protests and violence in many U.S. cities after a video showed police in Minneapolis killing a black man, George Floyd, fanning the flames of fury over racism in the States.

A police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn't breathe.

There have been several anti-racism protests across Canada over the last few days in support of Black Lives Matter. Most have been peaceful, but some have seen flare-ups, particularly in Montreal, of violence.

The protests come at a particularly poignant time in history as the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities faced by minorities and impoverished communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

"It has been a difficult Spring for many people," Trudeau said in addressing the status of the pandemic in the country. "And though the path forward isn't going to be easy, it will get better."

He noted that there are signs of the country slowly reopening but that there is still a ways to go.

"The situation remains very serious," he said. "We need to co-operate on countrywide testing and contact tracing. On this front, we're making great progress."

He also announced additional funding for Canadian municipalities facing a cash crunch in the process of reopening.
Trudeau said that $2.2 billion will be funnelled to municipalities through the Gas Tax Fund.

Typically, these funds are given to cities and towns in two instalments but Trudeau said the entirety of the 2020 and 2021 funds will be available for municipalities to access.

He also said that the federal government continues to add to the supply of personal protective equipment and related medical equipment needed to fight COVID-19.

The PM the race to accumulate what Canada needs requires a balance between shopping all over the world and continuing to bolster manufacturing capabilities at home.

Trudeau pointed out that over half the face shields acquired so far have been made by a Canadian company that expanded its workforce to contribute to the effort.

He says Canada has what's required to meet the provinces' demands at the moment but as the slow reopening of the country begins, more will be needed.

The federal government is in the market for hundreds of millions of pieces of gear, from gloves to gowns to ventilators.

The numbers on hand of most goods are ticking steadily up, though not for ventilators -- as of May 26, only 203 had arrived out of the nearly 40,000 ordered.

-- With files from Amy Kouniakis

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