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Justin Trudeau

PM deplores ‘anti-black racism’ in Canada, disburses $2.2 billion to cities, towns hit by COVID-19

Monday, June 01, 2020 @ 3:57 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Following outraged protests in Canada and the United States over police killings of unarmed African-Americans south of the border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that “anti-black racism” remains a serious problem in Canada that governments and individuals must work to eradicate.

“For far too many Canadians the images and stories coming out of the U.S. are all too familiar,” Trudeau said of the angry weekend demonstrations sparked in part by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a handcuffed African-American who died in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“As a country we can’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist here,” Trudeau said during his daily COVID-19 briefing June 1 in Ottawa.

“Anti-black racism is real,” the prime minister stressed. “Unconscious bias is real. And systemic discrimination is real. They happen here in Canada. Over the weekend we saw thousands of people gather across the country to join peaceful protests against anti-black racism. By standing together and denouncing the few who would try to derail these demonstrations, Canadians are sending the message that they will never tolerate injustice.”

Trudeau added, “to young black Canadians I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry. When you say that this brings back painful experiences of racism that you’ve faced. I want you to know that I’m listening and that your government will always stand with you.”

Trudeau did not announce any specific actions or measures to combat anti-black racism, but vowed “together we will keep taking meaningful action to fight racism and discrimination in every form.”

“The status quo, where people face violence because of the colour of their skin is unacceptable,” he declared. “No parent should have to once again explain to their kids that they, or their friends, might face racism. It is time, it is past time, for this to change. As leaders and allies we must do the hard work needed to listen and learn. We must ensure that everyone is safe and respected.”

He added, in the wake of the targeting and injuring of journalists during the protests, “that includes journalists who need to be able to do their work on the front lines to expose the truth and tell the stories we need to hear. We must, as Canadians, always keep working together to build a fairer, better, more equitable country for all.

Trudeau also announced that $2.2 billion in gas tax funding for infrastructure for municipalities — that would normally have been paid in two instalments this summer and later in 2020 — will be disbursed in full in June to cash-strapped municipalities hit hard by COVID-19.

He called the move a “first step” and a “start” — indicating that more money will follow after discussions with the provinces.

Reacting to the move, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stressed that its 2,000 members face $10 billion to $15 billion in “non-recoverable losses” incurred due the pandemic.

“This modest, preliminary measure may help some municipalities with immediate liquidity issues,” the federation said in a statement. “But to be clear: this is not new money. This money has already been accounted for in municipal budgets and does not address our crisis of non-recoverable losses — or the stark choices cities and communities now face. ... Municipalities are on the front lines of this pandemic. ... That’s why we have appealed for emergency operating funding — to keep front-line services going strong, and to be ready to drive Canada’s recovery. The fact is: there will be no economic recovery without a solution to the municipal financial crisis. We need all governments working together on this — and that needs to happen now. Without emergency funding, cities and communities are out of time and options.”

The federal Gas Tax Fund is a long-term, indexed source of funding for more than 3,600 communities across the country, a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office states. The fund includes 18 different project categories, including capacity-building, sport infrastructure, and roads. Communities can use the funds immediately for priority projects, bank them for later use, pool the dollars with other communities for shared infrastructure projects, or use them to finance major infrastructure expenditures.

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