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Canadian PM Justin Trudeau defends decision to attend Floyd’s protest amid COVID-19 curb

Ottawa is in the province of Ontario, which along with Quebec, accounts for the vast majority of infections and fatalities in the country.

SNS | New Delhi |

Amid criticism from opposition leaders, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Monday defended his presence at a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest despite warning to avoid large gatherings and supporting restrictions on mass events across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Opposition leaders accused Trudeau of ‘hypocrisy’.

On Friday, Trudeau joined thousands of protesters in taking a knee in front of parliament in solidarity with US protesters marching against racism and police brutality.

It marked a rare public outing for the Canadian leader since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as protests spread outside the United States after police in Minnesota killed an unarmed black man.

Addressing to the parliament, opposition leader Andrew Scheer on Monday said that he understood why some people were “upset and confused” at seeing Trudeau “completely ignore those types of health guidelines or recommendations.”

Earlier, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam had warned against public protests and recommended virtual protests instead.

Taking to Twitter, Scheer said, “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?”

He was backed by the leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet who described Trudeau’s presence at the protest as an avoidable publicity stunt, according to the outlet CBC News. It quoted him as saying, “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.”

During his daily briefing on the coronavirus crisis, Trudeau defended his action and siad that “right balance” was required between the right to protest and public health measures.

He also said that he went to the rally to “show support and listen to what community leaders and Black Canadians are calling for.”

Ottawa is in the province of Ontario, which along with Quebec, accounts for the vast majority of infections and fatalities in the country.

Over 7,800 deaths have been reported in total and more than 96000 persons infected so far in the country.

Death of 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd who was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit banknote on May 25 has sparked protests across major cities in the US.

In Toronto, Police Chief Mark Saunders and several uniformed officers met protesters marching through downtown, and also took a knee.

Last Tuesday, Trudeau appeared at a loss for words, pausing for 20 seconds when pressed for his thoughts on US President Donald Trump’s threat of military mobilization against violent protests.

About 10,000 people have expressed interest in attending the rally last Saturday in the city centre in solidarity with US protesters and to express anger about indigenous deaths in Australian custody.