Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced increased funding for the homeless and women’s shelters Saturday and dismissed the idea of retaliation against U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban the export of N95 masks to Canada.
In his daily press briefing Saturday, Trudeau said his government will spend $40 million for women’s shelters and $10 million for aboriginal women’s shelters.
He said funding has been boosted to $157 million to deal with the homeless, with the money to be used to add beds or rent facilities to allow homeless people to be domiciled in a safe way that allows for social distancing. There are serious concerns about an outbreak in areas like the Downtown Eastside, where it is difficult to keep homeless people from interacting with each other and front-line workers.
“It’s not just an issue of giving a safe place for people to escape violence or to give them shelter when they don’t have a home,” Trudeau said. “It’s really an issue of protecting everyone in our society against COVID-19. That includes the most vulnerable.”
Trump has recently threatened to prevent 3M from exporting medical masks to Canada. Trudeau has pointed out that the U.S. also depends on trade with Canada for medical equipment, as well as medical staff. Many nurses who live in Canada commute to the U.S., for example, and Canadian pulp and paper producers, like Harmac in Nanaimo, produce the raw materials for things like hospital gowns and masks.
Asked if Canada would retaliate – banning nurses from travelling to and from the U.S., for example – should Trump persist in his attempts to prevent 3M from selling masks to Canada, Trudeau dismissed the idea.
“We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive,” Trudeau said. “We know that is in both of our interests to continue to work collaboratively and cooperatively to keep our citizens safe.”
He added that his government is working with the U.S. to press home the idea that both countries rely on each other for goods and services, including medical goods and services.
Trudeau said that, over the next 48 hours, Canada will receive a shipment of millions of masks from various countries, including China, where Canada has now set up a warehouse to collect and distribute PPE supplies.
In recent days, Trudeau has come under fire for not releasing modelling on worst-case scenarios for Canada. Provincial governments, including B.C. and Ontario, have both released modelling that shows best- and worst-case scenarios. Ontario’s worst-case scenario is dire, predicting there could be 3,000 to 15,000 deaths in that province alone.
Trudeau said the federal government is still working with the provinces on a national modelling exercise, which he said will be made public “in the days to come.”
But regardless of what the modelling might predict, the measures being taken are critical and are already working to slow the growth of COVID-19, he said.
“Every scenario, every forecast model that we are going to come up with is going to nevertheless be based on one fact: That we need to stay at home,” Trudeau said. “We need to limit our movements.
“The measures that have been put in place by all orders of government ... are saving lives,” he said. “But this will only keep working if everyone continues to do their part.”
To date, there are more than 12,537 COVID-19 cases in Canada, and there have been 219 deaths.