Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau defended himself amid backlash from the opposition for attending the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest despite warning Canadians to avoid large gatherings and supporting restrictions on mass events across the country due to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. Opposition leaders accused Trudeau of ‘hypocrisy’.
The Canadian prime minister took a knee at an event in Ottowa held in memory of African-American George Floyd, who died late last month after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck while he lay face down on the ground. The police officer did not take his knee off Floyd's neck despite protests from onlookers and the victim himself who cried "I can't breathe." The incident sparked off both peaceful protests and violent rioting across the United States.
On Monday, Andrew Scheer, the opposition leader addressed the matter in Parliament and said he understood why some people were “upset and confused” at seeing Trudeau “completely ignore those types of health guidelines or recommendations.”
Scheer also tweeted, “Trudeau: you cannot attend funerals, visit dying relatives, or attend church services Also Trudeau: it’s ok for me to attend mass public gatherings Do you think that’s fair?”
The leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet also criticized Trudeau, calling his presence at the protest as an avoidable publicity stunt. “That is not the best place for the prime minister, or for me, to be. We have other occasions, opportunities to speak but it is quite characteristic of this Prime Minister — working with symbols, symbolic gestures," he said.
Trudeau defended his action at his daily media briefing on the coronavirus crisis, saying the “right balance” was required between the right to protest and public health measures. He said he went to the rally to “show support and listen to what community leaders and Black Canadians are calling for.”