Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kneeled during an anti-racism protest in Canada as the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US. But there are growing calls for him to do more to address racism in Canada.
Trudeau kneeled three times alongside anti-racism protesters near Canada’s parliament in Ottawa on Friday, as part of protests that have taken place in cities across the country over the previous week.
One of those times was during a nine-minute silence to represent the almost nine minutes that a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for before he died. Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe before his death.
Trudeau did not speak at the protests, and wore a black mask as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
While Trudeau appears to have been the first world leader to kneel during such protests, other world leaders have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and say they condemn racism.
The protests spread across the US after Floyd’s death, with major demonstrations taking place in every state. They have been replicated in countries around the world.
People in Canada are calling on Trudeau both to address the situation in the US and to do more to address inequality in Canada.
Trudeau said on Friday, after these incidents but before the protest, that “far too many Canadians feel fear and anxiety at the sight of a law enforcement officer.”
“Over the past weeks we’ve seen a large number of Canadians suddenly awaken to the fact that discrimination is a lived reality for far too many of our fellow citizens,” he said, Reuters reported.
He said that police discrimination against indigenous people and people of color “needs to end.”
But The Guardian reported that Trudeau did not directly answer reporters’ questions about specific government policy changes or whether he felt Canadian police were racist.
Trudeau said the issue will be discussed with his ministers, Reuters reported.
Some protesters said Trudeau’s kneeling felt like a stunt without more firm action.
Andray Domise, a Toronto-based writer, told The Guardian: “I’m not interested in bullshit publicity stunts, especially now.”
“How the hell can you kneel against police brutality? When everything in your record indicates you have no problem with it. It boggles the mind to watch him turn to the camera – almost like he was confirming that he was being filmed – and kneeling.”
Trudeau had been asked on Tuesday to respond to Trump’s use of tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from a Washington DC park so he could take photos in front of a church.