Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met on Thursday with religious leaders to thank them for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, I met with leaders of faith groups from across the country,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“They spoke about all that they’ve been doing during the pandemic – they’ve stepped up to help their neighbors and serve their communities, and they’ve been doing it with fewer resources than usual.”
The virtual forum was organized by the Canadian Council of Churches, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, and the Canadian Multifaith Federation and was attended by over 430 religious leaders from across the country.
“We also talked about the holidays, and how we’ll need to keep following public health guidelines,” added the Prime Minister.
“To the leaders who logged on today, thank you – you’ve been making a real difference, and I know you’ll continue to do so in the coming months. We’ll be right there with you.”
Well-known Canadian Muslim leader, Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi, spoke during the meeting about the contributions of Muslims over the past year.
“It was indeed a pleasure attending and speaking at today’s meeting with the Rt. Hon. PM JustinTrudeau discussing the contributions of Faith Communities in this COVID19 pandemic representing the Council of Imams and many Canadian Muslim communities,” said Dr. Slimi.
“I shared some of the wonderful things Canadian Muslims have been doing, including helping with poverty issues and mental health as well as the Muslim Covid Task Force established by the Canadian Council of Imams and the Muslim Medical Association of Canada.”
Pandit Roopnauth Sharma of the Hindu Federation of Canada and a member of the Canadian Multifaith Federation asked the Prime Minister to consider faith institutions an essential service as they offer a wide range of services from spiritual and emotional support to the practical needs of congregants.
“I find it very difficult to accept that we are not considered an essential service,” noted Pandit Sharma.
Sharma said that the Canadian Multifaith Federation is launching an initiative to advocate for a change in this situation and hopes the government would give it serious consideration.
Facing the Challenge
Prime Minister Trudeau promised to look at the proposal noting that the challenge is ‘how we translate that into practice.’
“Very little is more essential than the fundamental well-being of an individual within a community,” said the Prime Minister. “We have seen how many things feel essential haven’t qualified as essential in the past.”
“The way faith leaders and faith communities have been able to pull together in this difficult time and be there for people despite very difficult restrictions… for me, demonstrates just how essential it is what you offer to people, and how essential it is for people to receive them.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the pandemic has had a greater impact on racialized people, new Canadians, and older people.
“We know the pandemic hasn’t hit everyone equally,” he said. He went on to praise faith communities for supporting people who are in need, adding that the faith groups are “always ready to step up for the most vulnerable.”
He added that faith leaders play an important role in offering Canadians emotional and spiritual support as people are “tired and frustrated by what life is throwing at them right now.”