May 21, 2020
Justin Trudeau Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 21
Full transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Thursday, May 21 coronavirus press conference for Canada. He said China “doesn’t seem to understand” Canada’s judicial independence.
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Justin Trudeau: (15:27)
[French 00:15:27] Morning, everyone. The first thing I want to talk about today is what we’re doing to support indigenous people during the pandemic.
Justin Trudeau: (15:35)
Since day one, our government has been engaging with first nations, Inuit and Metis nation leaders in the fight against this virus. We’ve been listening to people’s concerns and working with local leadership to ensure that communities are getting the right support, and so far we’ve taken a number of important steps.
Justin Trudeau: (15:54)
We’re investing in emergency shelters to help indigenous women and children fleeing violence. We’re offering interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions to help indigenous businesses weather this storm. We’re helping first nations, Inuit and Metis nation students and recent grads find a job this summer. Last week, we announced more funding to support the most-urgent needs of indigenous communities dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Justin Trudeau: (16:22)
While all communities have had to wrestle with COVID-19 these past few months, the everyday realities of this crisis are different for everyone. To mount an effective response to this crisis, we must adapt our approach and our programs to recognize and meet the particular needs of all indigenous peoples, including those living in urban areas and off reserve.
Justin Trudeau: (16:46)
To this end, we announced $15 million back in March to support indigenous organizations that deliver services to these populations as part of the Indigenous Community Support Fund we had set up to help prevent and mitigate the impact of this virus. With this money, organizations have been able to give meals, groceries, clothing, and supplies to those in need and offer mental health counseling. They’ve also provided personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for supportive housing and computer and laptops so kids can keep up with their schoolwork. This funding is helping vulnerable people like youth, women, and elders.
Justin Trudeau: (17:28)
Indigenous community organizations in our cities and offer reserve do crucial work year-round, but these days there are services are in high demand because of the pandemic. We need to make sure they have the resources to adapt and grow their services so they can fulfill their important mission, so today our government is announcing an additional $75 million in new funding for organizations that address the critical needs of the over a million indigenous people living in urban centers and off reserve.
Justin Trudeau: (18:01)
This is critical work. If you live off reserve or in a city, we’re working to make sure you don’t fall through the cracks. You need and deserve services that are culturally appropriate, and that’s what we’re doing with today’s investment.
Justin Trudeau: (18:19)
[French 00: 05:18].
Justin Trudeau: (21:15)
As we gradually and carefully restart some activities, it’s never been more important to follow public health instructions. COVID-19 remains a very serious health threat. Yesterday Dr. Tam said that whenever physical distancing is not possible, Canadians should wear a non-medical mask or face covering when they go out. I want to remind everyone that physical distancing means keeping a two-meter distance with others. As we start to reopen the economy, it might be more difficult to maintain that distance at all times, so please follow Dr. Tam’s advice. Keep washing your hands, stay home, and, if you need to, wear a mask. This is the best way to protect both yourself and others.
Justin Trudeau: (22:06)
[French 00:09: 06].
Justin Trudeau: (22:49)
I want to end today with a piece of good news. Today, more than 230 new officers are graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada. They are part of a new generation of exceptional women and men ready to serve our country with distinction. You have chosen to step up and serve your country, and we could not be more proud of you. Thank you for your example. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your love of this extraordinary country and, mostly, thank you for everything you will do for us in the coming years. Congratulations to the Class of 2020. Merci.
Speaker 2: (23:39)
Speaker 3: (23:40)
Thank you, merci. The first question, Jamie Pashagumskum, APTN. Line open.
Jamie Pashagumskum: (23:48)
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. This question, I know I talked about it yesterday, about indigenous communities protecting their members. Specifically in Manitoba’s Keeyask Dam, you have Fox Lake creating another blockade. I’m wondering, do you think, specifically Fox Lake, do they have the right to protect their community members like this?
Justin Trudeau: (24:13)
I think every community needs to make sure they’re taking decisions to protect their members, but I think there are many ways of going about [inaudible 00:24:22] to make sure of government [inaudible 00:24:24] indigenous governments are working together with the same goal, which we all share, which is keeping Canadians as safe as possible, recognizing that certain communities and certain individuals are more vulnerable. I certainly know that across the country, there have been excellent and constructive conversations between indigenous and non-indigenous leadership in areas of overlap so that we can move forward in a way that protects Canadians, but also allows for a progressive return to normality.
Justin Trudeau: (24:58)
Speaker 2: (25:41)
As a follow-up, Jamie?
Jamie Pashagumskum: (25:43)
Yes. Thank you. Again, I know I spoke to you about this yesterday, but my next question is, again, concerning early releases of prisoners. More specifically, we at APTN, we’ve been asking Bill Blair for about a month now for the number of released inmates that have been released early from federal prisons. We’ve been trying quite successfully, but-
Speaker 4: (26:03)
From federal prisons, we’ve been trying quite successfully, but I’m wondering, can you confirm the inmates are being released early, and do you know when we’ll get these numbers?
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (26:12)
Corrections Canada has from the very beginning taken extremely seriously the responsibility of keeping both inmates and staff safe in their institutions during this pandemic. They have taken a number of steps in terms of reducing mobility between prisons, increasing the access for protective measures, and in certain cases, looking at release conditions. Minister Blair will have more to answer on that.
Speaker 5: (26:48)
Thank you operator. Next question.
Thank you, [foreign language 00:26:51]. Next question Stuart Thomson National Posts, line open.
Stuart Thomson: (26:58)
Hi Prime Minister, thanks for taking the question. I’m just hoping to get a sense of your government’s thinking around a potential second wave of infections in the fall. I know there’s some concern in provincial governments that Canadians might not take to a second lockdown, or maybe even a third or a fourth, if it comes to that, it could be for mental health reasons or economic security reasons or just exhaustion. So I’m just curious, is this something that you are also worried about?
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (27:24)
One of the things we know is that in pandemics, there are often, are usually second waves. The question that we’re very much focused on is as that second wave begins, or as we start to see resurgences in a reopened economy, how quickly are we able to contain them and control them? And that comes down to the scale of testing, the scale of contact tracing we’re able to have right across the country. That’s why the Federal Government has stepped up in its offer to provinces, to support them in massively scaling up testing capacity and contact tracing capacity.
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (28:05)
We know particularly in those areas that are still working to get the spread of the virus under control, it is going to be important to increase testing now, as we’re seeing in those areas, but also make sure that as we move forward through the summer and obviously into the fall, we are ready to act extremely quickly so that the population at large won’t be in situations of having to go back into confinement. But that depends on citizens doing their part, it also depends on having that testing capacity and that’s what we’re moving forward on.
Speaker 5: (28:40)
As a followup Stuart.
Stuart Thomson: (28:44)
So there have been some countries that even in the first wave have managed to send off a large amount of infections without a lockdown. I’m thinking of Hong Kong, where they’ve had barely any deaths. And it’s mainly because of mass squaring and a really robust centralized quarantine. I’m curious if you’re a government has been exploring these other jurisdictions and maybe some other ideas that would allow you to hold off on a lockdown if infections do raise again?
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (29:12)
From the very beginning, we have been looking carefully at what other countries have done, and drawing from them on elements that we could put forward in our response that would help here in Canada. Obviously there are many lessons. Many, many countries around the world got serious in their situations before we did. So we were able to make some very smart choices early on that has largely kept the pandemic within the controllable levels in Canada, although there have still been far too many deaths, and we certainly grieve and more than all of those. We know that there is more to do, and as we reopen, we know that citizens will continue to be extremely vigilant and careful about how they act, because that is going to be a key part of keeping us safe, moving forward. So government will do its part, citizens, employers, employees will be doing their part. We need to continue to do everything we can to prevent the need for any further lockdowns, the way we’ve had up till now. [foreign language 00:30:23].
Speaker 5: (31:24)
[foreign language 00:05: 29].
Thank you, [foreign language 00:31:33].
Speaker 6: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:31:38].
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:31:59].
Speaker 5: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:32:48].
Speaker 6: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:32:50].
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:33:13].
Speaker 5: (31:33)
[foreign language 00:34:07], last question.
Thank you. [foreign language 00:34:11].
Speaker 7: (34:03)
[foreign language 00:34:16].
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (35:12)
[foreign language 00:08:41]. I think we recognize how impacted air travel and airlines are by this COVID-19 pandemic, we also recognize that many Canadians are out of pocket for tickets that they are obviously not going to be using. I think we need to have some very careful discussions with airlines, with the air travel sector, and indeed with Canadians who are concerned to try and figure out a way forward, where we can ensure that Canadians are treated fairly, and our airline industry remains there for when our economy picks up again.
Speaker 5: (35:54)
[foreign language 00: 09:55].
Speaker 7: (36:13)
[foreign language 00:09:56]. a figure
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (36:30)
[ foreign language 00:10:10]. I think Canadians both want to make sure they’re not out of pocket, but they also want to know that we do have a future for our airline industry in Canada. It’s an important thing for Canadians to continue to have airlines in this country. We need to make sure we’re getting that balance right, and we’re making it through this in the right way.
Tom Perry: (36:58)
Hi Prime Minister, Tom Perry, CBC. We’ve seen some shortfalls in testing in places like Ontario and Quebec. You’ve just said that the Federal Government offering to invest in a national framework to lead the way on testing and contact tracing. You’ve got a call with the Premier’s today, presuming if they do take you up on your offer, how fast could you roll this out? What’s standing in your way? And given the shortfalls we’re seeing in places like Ontario and Quebec, should people… Should they feel safe as these economies reopened?
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau: (37:26)
We have already seen a significant ramp ups of testing in places like Ontario and Quebec, where there is a need for even greater testing. Last week with the Premier’s, I laid out that offer that the Federal Government could take it on, and we got positive responses from right across the country. We’re going to continue discussing that tonight and talk precisely about how we can scale up testing immediately in places where it’s necessary, like in Ontario and Quebec, and be ready to scale up almost instantly in places where right now the virus is pretty well under control, but any flare ups need to be responded to extremely quickly. That is the frame that we’re laying out. We don’t want logistical or financial limitations to keep anywhere in this country held back from doing all the testing that is necessary. That’s what the Federal Government will be there for. [foreign language 00:12:21].
Justin Trudeau: (39:27)
[foreign language 00:00: 00].
Speaker 8: (39:32)
And B.C.’s Premier says that he wants a national policy on paid sick leave, says it’s a crucial part of preventing that second wave of COVID-19. You’ve got economies is opening up. You’ve got a lot of low wage workers finding it hard to take sick leave. Would you be willing to look at a national policy on that?
Justin Trudeau: (39:50)
We have already had a good conversations on a range of proposals by the provinces. I’ve heard John Horgan, Premier of B.C., directly on this proposal and look forward to continuing conversations with the provinces on how we can best support people. There’s the issue of sick leave. There’s the issue of increased childcare spaces. There’s the issue of making sure our longterm care facilities are better supported and more protected. There are a number of things that we need to talk about as governments to ensure that we’re moving forward in the right way.
Speaker 9: (40:24)
Prime Minister, Janet Silver, Global News, Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, is warning of a national risk posed by foreign investments, plus there are threats from foreign actors to manipulate the Canadian public and interfere with our democracy. I’m wondering how concerned are you about these reports and what actions are your government taking to mitigate these concerns?
Justin Trudeau: (40:45)
Our national security agencies do an exceptional job in flagging risks to Canadians and taking action to mitigate those risks. We will always support them and take on their recommendations and make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect Canadians from malicious actors, whether they be foreign or domestic. [foreign language 00:02:08].
Speaker 9: (41:30)
And last weekend on the West Block, we spoke to China’s ambassador to Canada. And when we asked him about the detainment of the two Michaels detained in China, Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig, he said that they were being treated very well. And then he went on to say, and I quote, “That actually the biggest issue in our bilateral relationship is still [inaudible 00:41:49] case. So that’s why we have made it our position very clear, you know, to make sure that she’s back in China, smoothly and safely.” The ambassador has linked her case to the two Michaels. I’d like to get your thoughts on that.
Justin Trudeau: (42:02)
We have seen Chinese officials linking those two cases from the very beginning. Canada has an independent judicial system that functions without interference or override by politicians. It is one of the things that is deeply dear to Canadians in our system to keep it strong and to assure the division of powers within our democracy. China doesn’t work quite the same way and don’t seem to understand that we do have an independent judiciary from political intervention. We will continue to follow and uphold the independence of our judicial system while we advocate for the release of the two Michaels who have been arbitrarily detained by China in retaliation for a judicial system that is independent in the way it functions.
Speaker 10: (42:57)
[foreign language 00: 03:57].
Justin Trudeau: (43:00)
[foreign language 00:42:58].
Speaker 11: (43:00)
[foreign language 00:43:50].
Justin Trudeau: (43:00)
[foreign language 00:44:17].
Speaker 11: (43:00)
[foreign language 00:45:42].
Justin Trudeau: (46:28)
[foreign language 00: 06:54].
Justin Trudeau: (46:36)
I think it’s extremely important that, first of all, we understand we all want the same thing. Every different order of government wants to ensure that citizens, particularly our vulnerable elders and vulnerable citizens, are protected. That’s why different orders of government, including indigenous governments, need to work with nearby communities and ensure that we’re finding a balance that protects the citizens first and foremost, but allows for the careful reopening as appropriate of our economies and our communities.
Speaker 12: (47:10)
Glen McGregor, CTV news, I promised you I won’t ask you about the airline tickets again because your two previous responses were not clear. The federal government is the regulator of Canada’s airlines. Will you use that power and authority over them to insist the people who paid for tickets and were not given refunds, get those refunds?
Justin Trudeau: (47:26)
This is an important issue to Canadians that we are working with the airlines and with Canadians concerned on. We’re looking at what other countries have done in these measures and we’re looking to make sure that Canadians are supported financially through this time, but that also we’re going to come back with airlines that function here in Canada for the longterm. Getting that balance right will be delicate, but it is something that we’re working.
Speaker 12: (47:53)
But, Prime Minister, don’t you see this it’s fundamentally unfair, that people bought tickets may never be able to use them and are now given vouchers instead that they can’t use? Don’t you just think it’s a matter of fairness and it’s the right thing to do whatever the issues the airline industry is facing right now?
Justin Trudeau: (48:07)
This is why we are working with all concerned parties to try and find a solution. [foreign language 00:48:14].
Speaker 13: (48:11)
[foreign language 00:48:16].