Jun 8, 2020
Justin Trudeau Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript June 8
Full transcript of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Monday, June 8 coronavirus press briefing. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Justin Trudeau: (05:53)
In this morning, by reflecting on the reports and videos that have continued to surface in the last few days of violence against black Canadians and indigenous people, I want to talk about what this means for our path forward as a country. On Friday, I went to a rally on Parliament Hill to show my support and listen to what community leaders and 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, and as you call for it now. Our communities are suffering from inequality and racism at this time, including during this pandemic, all you have to do is look at a map of the cases of COVID-19 in Toronto and Montreal, to see that black Canadians are harder hit by COVID-19. I am here and I am listening to the demands of black Canadians. I hear you denounce systemic discrimination, racism, unconscious bias, things that persist in our society and I’m ready to take action.
Justin Trudeau: (07:05)
We realize that many people in this country simply do not feel protected by the police. 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, it’s about poverty and mental health, it’s about the fact that people are all too often treated like criminals, instead of receiving the support that they need. We, as governments need to work together. We as leaders, need to recognize that these problems are tied to economic inequality, and the racialization of poverty and we need bold measures to address this. Our government promised to address systemic racism and injustice. We knew that this work had to be informed by the lived experiences of racialized communities and indigenous peoples. So we listened and we worked together to change things.
Justin Trudeau: (08:06)
We invested in mental health resources and youth programs for black Canadians. We worked to close the gaps in services for indigenous communities. We funded Statistics Canada, so they could create a gender diversity and inclusion statistic hub, and this work culminated in the release of Canada’s anti-racism strategy for 2019, 2022, and the creation of an anti-racism secretariat. Just last fall, we appointed a minister to focus specifically on diversity and inclusion. Together we have made progress, progress that has meant support for groups like the Black Health Alliance, a new school for indigenous kids.
Justin Trudeau: (08:50)
But I hear you when you say that it isn’t enough. I hear you when you say that it doesn’t solve systemic racism and I agree. With the many disturbing reports of violence against black Canadians and indigenous people, we know that we need to do much more and we need to do it now.
Justin Trudeau: (09:13)
I had a discussion with cabinet on Friday that will continue later today. I also spoke with Commissioner Lucky of the RCMP this morning. The Commissioner assured me that she will use all available tools to take quick, solid action. On our call one of the things we discussed was the adoption of body cameras. I’m committing to raising this with the provinces this week, so we can move forward as quickly as possible. Minister Blair has also reaffirmed to me his commitment to improving indigenous policing. Later today, I have a stock take on reconciliation to discuss our work with indigenous communities. I am committing to you that this work will continue to accelerate the pace of change, because you deserve real commitments as quickly as possible that addresses the root causes of these problems.
Justin Trudeau: (10:11)
Things must change, but fixing centuries of injustice, exclusion and violence are not things that can happen overnight. We have to work together and we have to work hard. Today, I am pledging to continue to lead the charge and our government will be working as well and as quickly as possible to build a country that is more just and better with you.
Justin Trudeau: (10:39)
There’s no doubt that the last few months have been harder than anyone could have expected. This pandemic has meant different challenges for everyone, but no matter who you are, and no matter what you’re dealing with, a little bit of help can make all the difference. Maybe your employer has been able to keep you on the payroll because of the wage subsidy, a program that’s supporting two and a half million jobs. Perhaps you got some-
Justin Trudeau: (11:03)
… 2.5 million jobs. Perhaps you got some extra help through the Canada Child Benefit, or you’ll receive more money with the top-up to your Old Age Security, or you might even be one of the 500,000 young people who has accessed the Student Benefit helping you pay for next year’s tuition.
Justin Trudeau: (11:21)
In recent months we’ve been working hard to help people get through this crisis and the programs that we introduced, and the investments we’ve been making, are making a real difference. I’m thinking, for example, of a story that Anthony Housefather told me about a Montreal firm called Franklin Empire, in his writing, that manufactures electrical goods. That family business has been around for four generations and employs more than 500 people in Quebec, and Ontario. The business was doing fine, but when the pandemic hit they had to shut down their production line. They wanted to keep their employees, but they couldn’t do that on their own. And that’s where the Emergency Wage Subsidy comes into play. They were able to rehire all their employees and, with our help, provide them with a full salary. We’re talking about 500 persons and their families now receiving their paycheck as usual, in spite of the pandemic. And this is only one example, but it does show why programs like the Emergency Wage Subsidy are so important. But we know that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Justin Trudeau: (12:34)
On Friday I announced that the federal government would contribute $14 billion towards a safe restart agreement with the provinces, and territories, for the things that all Canadians need as we get our country back up and running. Right now we’re working with the premiers on what this restart could look like in the coming months. And as we do that we’re staying focused on people’s new realities.
Justin Trudeau: (12:59)
If you work in a hospital or in a business that’s reopening you’ll need PPE to stay safe. If you’re back on the job you might need transit, childcare, or the option to take time off if you are ill. If you’re a senior or at higher risk from COVID-19 you may need some extra support. These are the things that Canadians are thinking about, so it’s what we’re thinking about too. The provinces and territories are all facing different realities right now, and we have to consider that as we look to the next steps. But wherever you live we are working with your premier to reach a restart agreement that will allow us to protect your health and safety together. In addition to cooperating on that agreement the premiers and myself have also discussed about Canadians who are separated from their family members because of the border closure. Obviously we want families to be together, but our priority remains the safety of all Canadians, so we will be introducing a limited exemption that will allow members of the immediate family of citizens or permanent residents to enter Canada, mainly spouses, children, and the parents of minor children. But I want to be absolutely clear, any person entering Canada will have to self-isolate for 14 days. I know that Minister Mendicino will have more to say about this later today.
Justin Trudeau: (14:39)
This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse, a child, or mom and dad. We hear that. That’s why we’re bringing in a limited exemption to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada. I want to be clear though, anyone entering the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days. And if you don’t follow these rules you could face serious penalties. I know that Minister Mendicino will have more to say about all of this later today.
Justin Trudeau: (15:15)
I know that after this difficult spring a lot of people are hoping that the summer will be easier to deal with. Things are starting to improve for many people, but we know there is still a lot of work to be done and Canadians can count on our support in the months, and weeks, to come. Thank you.
Thank you. [foreign language 00:15:42]. First question, Brian Lilley, Toronto Sun. Line open.
Brian Lilley: (15:48)
Good morning Prime Minister. You’ve spoken often about the need for the provinces to be cautious in reopening. Last week you specifically said that you want to be clear, we’re not out of the woods, the pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians. So I want to ask you about the fact that so many Canadians did participate in protests over the weekend. Some were wearing masks, some were not. Some were social distancing and others were not. But a lot of Canadians are looking and saying, “I’ve lost my job because I followed rules. I couldn’t go to a family member’s funeral because I followed the rules.” What do you say to Canadians who are sitting and saying, “I understand the issues of racism, I understand the issues the protestors were raising, but I’ve lost out on nearly three months of my life due to this.” Can you continue to support the lockdown measures that have been in place?
Justin Trudeau: (16:46)
We’ve seen thousands of Canadians come out this weekend, and over the past days, to highlight their deep concerns and stand in solidarity with racialized Canadians, and indigenous Canadians. Again, as you pointed out, we saw many, many efforts made to wear masks, to continue social distancing. It is important that we follow public health advice throughout, even as we protest and demonstrate in order to create a better world. We have to get that balance right and I continue to extort Canadians to do just that.
Speaker 3: (17:22)
Justin Trudeau: (17:22)
Okay. [crosstalk 00:17:24] In recent days we’ve seen thousands and thousands of Canadians go down into the street to demonstrate, to talk about inequality and systemic discrimination that exists in Canada, particularly for racialized Canadians and indigenous Canadians. We also saw that many people have made an effort by wearing a mask and keeping the proper distance from others, and they have been following public health advice, and we need people to continue to follow that public health advice, even when they are demonstrating. It’s important that we be careful and that we continue to get through this crisis.
Brian Lilley: (18:10)
Steps from where you took a knee though, Prime Minister, there was an Ottawa restaurant allowing customers to eat their pizza socially distanced on a patio. They’re facing an $880 fine for violating the same emergency orders that you violated, that many of the people at the protest violated, so can you continue to say that we’ve got to have these lockdown measures in place, when there is obviously a difference of how they are applied between people meeting on their driveways, people eating pizza, and people protesting?
Justin Trudeau: (18:48)
Thank you for your question Brian. I mean there’s a lot of people wondering about what exactly is the right thing to do, what the coming weeks and months will hold for us. One of the things that we’ve seen very clearly from other jurisdictions, including places like South Korea and others where a strong handling of the crisis at the beginning has given way to some resurgences here and there, is that as we loosen some of the population control measures, as people are returning to work in some ways, seeing businesses reopen, we need to step up in other ways. We need to continue socially distancing, we need to wear masks where appropriate, but we also need to make sure that we are stepping up on things like contact tracing, and exposure notification, and massive testing. There are many more things we need to do. Even as we restart the economy we need to bring in other measures, as well, to ensure that we can handle any resurgence.
Justin Trudeau: (19:45)
All this is difficult, and frustrating, and longer than we’d hoped it would be in many ways. But at the same time we know that the cost of having to return into social isolation, return into lockdown, because of a massive resurgent, is not one that anyone wants to bear, which is why we are being very cautious going forward, and we continue to encourage people to follow all public health advice and guidance.
Speaker 2: (20:13)
Thank you. Operator, next question.
Thank you. [foreign language 00:20:17] [Raymond Felion 00:20:19] [foreign language 00:20:20].
Raymond Felion: (20:26)
Good morning Prime Minister. Are you concerned that these demonstrations that we’ve seen, and continue to see, will boost the number of cases. And will you be tested now, since you were in the middle of a crowd on Friday?
Justin Trudeau: (20:37)
Well Ray, as you all say, I took the necessarily steps, as much as possible. I wore a mask. I kept a proper distance, to the best of my ability. And, of course, this is a very delicate balance and people will have to be cautious. If you cannot follow the distancing measures you must wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, and use disinfectant. People feel a very profound need to demonstrate to show their solidarity with racialized and indigenous Canadians, people who face this systemic discrimination and have been enduring that right across the country. At the same time we must keep our distance from others and do everything we can to prevent further spread of the virus.
Justin Trudeau: (21:37)
We’ve seen that people feel a deep need to stand in solidarity with racialized Canadians, with indigenous Canadians, who continue to face unacceptable levels of systemic discrimination in this country. This is a time for people to make sure their voice is heard, but it’s also a time in which we need to follow public health instructions as best as possible, which is why I, and many others, wore masks. Even as we tried to …
Justin Trudeau: (22:03)
…is why I and many others wore masks, even as we tried to keep our distances in those massive crowds. But, we need to make sure we’re getting that balance right of looking to build a better world, looking to ensure that real change happens now and into the coming months, while at the same time ensuring that we slow and decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Speaker 4: (22:23)
[foreign language 00:00:26] follow up.
Well, we saw you Friday kneeling on the ground. What did it mean to you? Could you explain that to us?
Justin Trudeau: (22:35)
For me, it meant showing respect for all the people demonstrating around me, and it meant saying that things are not right, that we have a system that continues to discriminate against black Canadians, racialized Canadians, indigenous Canadians. We must acknowledge the fact that even though we live in an extraordinary country, maybe the best country in the world, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that everyone in Canada feels that they live in the best country in the world. That is not the reality for everyone, and for me, kneeling was a sign of respect and solidarity with them.
Speaker 4: (23:22)
Thank you operator, next question.
Thank you! Good morning, Mr. Trudeau, I’d like to come back to the $14 billion you promised to the provinces. Did you agree on how the money would be shared between the provinces? Mr. [Lugo 00:23:44] was saying it should not be the traditional formula, the per capita formula, and in fact it should be based on the effect of the pandemic in the province. In other words, Quebec and Ontario should receive more. What do you think of that?
Justin Trudeau: (23:58)
Well, Quebec and Ontario will be receiving more because of their population. We recognize that many jurisdictions who have not have had that many cases of COVID-19, have still had to suspend certain services and they do have additional costs to bear in order to protect against a second wave and all of that, are discussions and negotiations that are ongoing with the provinces. But the fact is, that we are here to ensure that every single Canadian right across the country has access to whatever they need, whether it is personal protective equipment, or childcare, or help for our seniors, or help for our municipalities, so that we can restart the economy safely.
Follow up, and yes, I’d like to come back to what you said in your speech about body cameras for police officers. What is position on this? Should the RCMP officers wear them? When you discuss this with the provinces or when you did discuss it, what was their response or reaction? Were they open to the idea?
Justin Trudeau: (25:10)
Well, I did speak to the Premiers of the need to take concrete action. We did not directly speak of body cameras for police, but that is certainly something that I will be raising with them in the coming days at our weekly call. So of course at the federal level, we have a responsibility for the RCMP, but the provinces have their own responsibility for the provincial and municipal police forces. So we will have to work together, but certainly there is no doubt that body cameras are a very important part of this. It shows transparency, and I think it would be very important for police officers to have them in this country.
Justin Trudeau: (25:56)
On Thursday last week with the Premiers, I highlighted the need for us to take concrete, direct actions to move forward on systemic discrimination in this country, on moving forward together on making real change so that more Canadians can feel safe and respected in their own country. This is a challenge that has gone on for far too long and requires concerted action across all orders of government. In regards to body cameras, it didn’t come up in our conversation last Thursday, but certainly moving forward this week, it will come up. As you know the Federal government has jurisdiction over the RCMP, but there are many other provincial and municipal police forces that should be looking at greater transparency measures as well and I will certainly be talking with the provinces and premiers about the need to move forward on measures like body cameras.
Speaker 4: (26:51)
Thank you operator. Last question on the phone, [foreign language 00:26:55].
Speaker 5: (26:58)
Yes, thank you, merci, last question, Kristi [Kirkup 00:00:27:00], the Globe and Mail, line open.
Kristi Kikup: (27:03)
Good morning, Prime Minister in recent days, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief, Allen Adam has alleged that he was beaten by the RCMP. He has shared pictures of his bloodied face and swollen eye, given this incident and many others that have come to light, how can Canadians be confident that there are mechanisms in place to ensure that there is someone policing the police?
Justin Trudeau: (27:28)
We have obviously all seen and been deeply alarmed by the pictures that Chief Adams shared. Obviously Minister Miller has engaged with the Chief directly multiple times over the past days. We need to do more. We need to take significant measures to move forward. We brought in an RCMP management board a number of years ago, as we committed to, that is helping with civilian oversight over the RCMP, but there is more to do and that is a conversation I had with Commissioner Lucky this morning. And I will continue working with her and with all of our partners on ensuring that we bring forward significant concrete and rapid measures to address these issues.
Justin Trudeau: (28:19)
We were all disturbed by the photographs shared by the Chief a few days ago, Minister Miller has been in direct communication with him and I spoke to Commissioner Lucky of the RCMP this morning. We have to work together to expedite change within the RCMP. Now we did bring in additional measures in recent years to ensure greater accountability within the RCMP, but we know that there’s a lot more to be done and we will be working together in the coming days to bring in new measures.
Kristi Kikup: (29:03)
Prime Minster, five years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission highlighted systemic issues between police and indigenous people, the National Public Inquiry that your government called on missing and murdered indigenous women did the same. Have you given any consideration to appointing someone in your cabinet to assess allegations of systematic racism and to be tasked with taking action on it?
Justin Trudeau: (29:27)
We have not waited for those reports to move forward. We have been taking action on these systematic challenges, whether it was bringing in new review and oversight management boards for the RCMP, whether it’s moving forward on Statistics Canada, being better able to work with disaggregated data. Whether it’s working more directly with community organizations and giving them the funds to be able to develop programs that can help. There are many things we’ve done, including directly within the National Police Force in terms of bringing forward significant measures and transformations, but there is much, much more to do. We appointed a Minister of Diversity and Inclusion for the very first time last fall. And she has been tasked with looking directly at these issues and our Minister of Public Safety has of course the mandate to ensure that we are fighting against systemic discrimination in everything we do.
[foreign language 00:30:34] Canada, now you denounced systemic racism, but for years, commissions and experts have been recommending all sorts of things that are still waiting for concrete results. For example, an Investigative Bureau that would be looking at incidents associated with police brutality against indigenous people. Will we see an organization like that in Canada soon?
Justin Trudeau: (30:55)
Well, we will very quickly be looking at all the measures that are currently in place, in terms of transparency, accountability, and so on. And we are ready to do anything necessary. We are prepared to introduce new structures or strengthen existing structures. That’s exactly the kind of conversation I had with the Commissioner this morning and those are the conversations we are also having in cabinet. We know we have to take concrete steps and we know we need to strengthen the current system and perhaps add things to it and that’s what we’re looking at this week.
One year ago, the investigation on missing and murdered indigenous women recommended that civilian groups be asked to monitor the police right across the country. I think the people are wondering what you’re waiting for to do that? When will those groups and be put in place?
Justin Trudeau: (31:52)
Well, the RCMP has created advisory groups in every region to work with the indigenous people, but we know there has to be more done and that’s what we’re looking at this week. We’re going to have conversations about where we can go a bit further, where we have to go a lot further, in order to ensure that we are the taking concrete action, that we’re not just talking about intentions, but that we’re taking concrete action that will transform this country.
Justin Trudeau: (32:24)
We’ve had many conversations over the past years about fighting against systemic discrimination, whether it has been creating better oversight of the RCMP, which we’ve moved forward on, whether it’s the RCMP Commissioner setting up Indigenous Advisory Councils, right across the country to better respond to what they’re doing. We’ve done a number of things, but we know we have to do much more and that’s what we’re talking about this week. Looking at concrete measures, where we can strengthen certain existing bodies, where we might need to bring in new bodies, where we can move forward on different measures. There’s a range of things that obviously we need to do-
Justin Trudeau: (33:03)
… Different measures. There’s a range of things that obviously we need to do. The intention has been there to fight systemic discrimination in this country. We now need to do even more in terms of actions to make sure that gets done.
Tom Perry: (33:14)
Prime Minister, Tom Perry, CBC. I’d like to ask you about your own decision to attend the rally on Friday. This was clearly something that was important to you, but you’ve been telling Canadians for weeks to avoid doing things that are important to them. So why did you decide to go against your own advice? And also you were asked earlier whether you’re going to get tested, are you?
Justin Trudeau: (33:31)
I will continue to follow public health protocols in terms of getting tested. I’m open to getting tested, obviously, but when I was in isolation, because I was in proximity with my wife who had tested positive, it was determined at the time that I didn’t need to get tested because I was isolating and I showed absolutely no symptoms. I continue, obviously, to show no symptoms. In regards to the rallies, it was important for me to attend. I think to look out the windows of my office and see thousands upon thousands of young people, of Canadians of all ages, stand in solidarity to wanting to see change happen. I felt it was important for me to be part of that, to be able to listen, to be able to hear people and to be able to understand and to share with people how important it was to act on it.
Justin Trudeau: (34:26)
I, as best I could, followed social distancing measures, wearing a mask, keeping distance where possible, but I recognize that it is a difficult situation where we’re trying to balance very important competing interests. But for me, it was important that I be there to hear. [foreign language 00:01:48].
Speaker 6: (34:47)
I think we’re in a situation now where we’re constantly being called upon to make difficult choices. Of course, we must try to follow public health recommendations. That’s what I tried to do, but I also felt it was very important that the prime minister be there to listen and hear the voices of thousands of Canadians who want us to act quickly to counter systemic discrimination that exists in this country. That is the choice that I made and I believe it was the right choice. Well, several months ago. I self isolated when Sophie tested positive for COVID-19. And I am being told that since I had no symptoms, I had no need to be tested, but I’m always open to be tested again.
Tom Perry: (35:42)
… body cameras. I just want to be clear. This is something that you think should happen? Then you think that the RCMP officers should be wearing these cameras. And also in your conversations with the commissioner, is she saying that, does she think that her officers would be willing to wear these cameras?
Justin Trudeau: (35:55)
I think these are discussions we need to go forward on, on the logistics, on the cost, on the cost to provinces, where there is contract policing in place. But the challenges that I’ve heard are more logistical and economic concerns about remote areas and the way those cameras would work. But yes, it is something that is in my, in my opinion, what we need to move forward with. [foreign language 00:03:25].
Speaker 6: (36:26)
In my discussions with the commissioner this morning, we talked about body cameras. The challenges associated with those cameras have to do with logistics and economics. They’re not as substantive. There are also some technical challenges. So I think we agree that we have to move forward with body cameras for RCMP officers.
Annie Bergeron Oliver: (36:56)
Hello, prime minister, it’s Annie Bergeron Oliver with CTV National News. You took a knee at Friday’s rally showing your support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of the protesters we spoke with said that they appreciate the symbolism, but they want concrete actions to show that that was not just a photo op. You mentioned body cameras in your speech, but many advocates say that simply a bandaid solution. So I’m wondering what firms steps will you take immediately to begin addressing systemic racism in Canada?
Justin Trudeau: (37:23)
Well, I think first of all, body cameras is a significant step towards transparency. And we’re, as I’ve said, going to work on that this week. We’re also going to move forward on looking at various review structures and oversight commissions at the policing level to make sure that they have the powers and the abilities to do what needs to be done. But when we talk about systemic racism, it’s easy and important to look at policing in this country as being a key challenge.
Justin Trudeau: (37:52)
But the drivers of systemic racism are far greater than just policing. They’re social economic factors. They’re inequalities, longstanding inequalities, the racialization of poverty is a reality in this country. And we need to make sure that we are addressing all of those at the same time. That is why as a cabinet, as a government, as a country, we will have many important conversations, but I hear very clearly that as much as we have made strong efforts over the past years on stepping forward in the right way, it hasn’t been enough. We have to do much more. And we will.
Annie Bergeron Oliver: (38:31)
You’ve also said that the protests are calling for action now. And one of the clear calls that we’re hearing is to reduce police budgets and to redirect money, to better support black communities. Minneapolis announced that it will do just that. And I’m wondering whether you will review the RCMP budget?
Justin Trudeau: (38:46)
Well, I think there’s always a need to review every dollar, every public dollar spent to ensure that we’re getting the best results out of it. That what we’re doing is the thing to keep Canadians safe. That’s something that Canadians expect of their governments. And we will continue to do that to ensure that budgets are spent appropriately, the budgets themselves are appropriate and make sure that we’re also investing in all the things that need to be invested in to ensure truly safer communities. [foreign language 00:06:16]
Speaker 6: (39:16)
I think people expect us to be constantly reviewing budgets and expenditures, to be sure that we are investing money in the right things and that we’re developing the right programs and tools to keep all Canadians safe. And that’s something we will continue to do.
Speaker 7: (39:34)
[crosstalk 00:39:34] global news. Prime Minister, the Migrant Workers Alliance for change says more than a thousand complaints on behalf of migrant farm workers went unheeded by federal and provincial authorities ahead of these recent COVID-19 outbreaks. Why didn’t your government do more to ensure these essential workers were safe?
Justin Trudeau: (39:50)
No one in Canada should be at greater risk of COVID-19. We know we need to do better by migrant workers. Temporary foreign workers in Canada have an extremely important role to play in our agricultural systems. We’ve had many discussions with agricultural industry and with migrant worker organizations to ensure that we were putting measures in place that would allow both isolation and the important work in assuring Canada’s food supply continues. Of course, we will be continuing to listening to them and looking how we can make things better going forward.
Speaker 7: (40:29)
Cramped living conditions, working long hours in close proximity. Advocates have complaining about these issues for decades. Will your government consider giving migrant workers permanent residence status so they can assert their right to a safe workplace?
Justin Trudeau: (40:41)
We need, whether they’re permanent residents or whether they’re simply temporary foreign workers, we need to do a better job of protecting temporary agricultural workers in this country, temporary foreign workers in this country, we have taken a number of steps, but there’s more to do and we will do it.
Tom Perry: (40:57)
[foreign language 00:41:00].
Speaker 8: (40:57)
That is the Prime Minister… (silence)