Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said today that Canadians have a right to be irritated when they see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking part in a protest after months of promoting home stay requests as the best way to beat the pandemic.
Scheer said most Canadians have respected public health guidelines designed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus behind COVID-19 – staying at home and avoiding large crowds and abiding by rules that make visits to hospitals and funerals impossible.
Ontario still has rules against mass meetings. Much of the province's economy is still in blockade mode, as the virus continues to invade communities.
Trudeau participated in an anti-racism demonstration on Parliament Hill Friday. About 4,000 people participated in the protest; few of them practiced physical distance. Ontario is still registering hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 every day.
The prime minister wore a mask at the protest. Some of the other participants did not. Trudeau shook hands with some of the crowd, something public health officials warned against.
"I understand why people are upset and confused … seeing the prime minister completely ignore these types of health guidelines or recommendations. I understand why people are confused about what advice to follow," said Scheer.
"The Prime Minister seems to have completely ignored the health authorities."
WATCH Justin Trudeau kneels during protest against racism against blacks
Trudeau said on Monday that the country needs to find the "right balance" between allowing protests and respecting the health measures that he himself encouraged people to follow.
"We have seen many, many efforts made to wear masks, to continue social detachment," said Trudeau. "It is important that we follow public health councils throughout the process, while protesting and demonstrating creating a better world."
Watch: Andrew Scheer says the PM sent a confused message with his appearance in protest
He said that people feel "a deep need to show solidarity with racial and indigenous Canadians" and that these people should wear masks and wash their hands if they go to the streets.
Trudeau said he went to the rally "to show support and to listen to what community leaders and black Canadians are asking for."
"I hear you, and I see you, what you call systemic discrimination, racism and unconscious prejudice, how you ask for action and how you ask for it now," Trudeau told anti-black racism activists.
Trudeau said he will speak to principals about using body cameras to track the actions of police officers – something lawyers say that prevents misconduct.
From some sectors, calls to "shell out" the police in response to widespread acts of police violence against minorities are increasing – something that the Minneapolis city council has already promised to do. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also threatens to cut funding for his city police force and direct money to social programs.
Scheer said he would not support this change here in Canada.
"I don't think the RCMP disbursement would make Canadians any safer," said Scheer, while voicing support for efforts to eradicate systemic discrimination in the ranks.
Trudeau said it is necessary to "constantly review" budgets and expenses, but has not pledged to reduce police funding.