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Trudeau promises to push police body-cameras with premiers to aid 'transparency'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question from the media during a new conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Monday June 8, 2020. Trudeau says he'll propose equipping police with body-worn cameras to the country's premiers this week, hoping for rapid movement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's planning to push provincial premiers to equip police with body-worn cameras as a rapid, substantive solution to allegations of racism and brutality.

The cameras document police officers' interactions with the public and Trudeau says they're one relatively simple way to address complaints that police in Canada treat racialized people unfairly.

He says fixing centuries of racial injustice won't happen overnight but recent protests have shown him that more needs to be done quickly.

"The challenges that I've heard are more logistical and economic concerns about remote areas, and the way those cameras would work," Trudeau said Monday.

"But yes, it is something that is, in my opinion, what we need to move forward with."

Trudeau says he raised the issue with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in a call Monday and he'll pursue it with the provincial premiers later in the week.

Trudeau says a look at the distribution of COVID-19 cases in large cities such as Toronto and Montreal shows that black people have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

Trudeau says poverty and inequality are underlying factors that need to be addressed, and that includes reviewing spending decisions on the RCMP

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says removing funding from the RCMP because of allegations of racism and brutality won't make Canadians any safer.

He says the RCMP and other police forces need to do more to stamp out systemic racism, but that doesn't mean taking away funding.

"I don't believe that defunding the RCMP would make Canadians safer," he said Monday.

"I believe we have to look at aspects within our police forces and stamp out systemic racism where it exists and put in measures to ensure nobody is mistreated or treated differently because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic background."

Scheer and Trudeau were speaking today in response to several incidents across the country, including allegations of police brutality from a First Nations chief in Alberta and the fatal police shooting of a 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia in Edmundston, N.B.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who is a former Toronto police chief, says in a tweet that the government is "deeply concerned" by the Alberta allegations, which were made Saturday by Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam.

But Scheer calls the government hypocritical because Blair was the Toronto police chief when the controversial practice of carding was in effect. 

Thousands of protesters returned to Montreal streets on Sunday to speak against racism, systemic discrimination and police brutality, following other Canadian communities that held marches this weekend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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