Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to weigh in on an “area of provincial jurisdiction” when asked Monday what specific protections he’d want in place before children return to schools that have been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, “as a parent,” Trudeau suggested there are questions he’d want answered to ensure his three children would be safe.
“What sort of social-distancing measures will be in place? What are the kids going to do at recess? What are the kids going to do at lunch? How many kids are going to be in the classroom?” he said at a press conference outside of Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Monday.
Watch: Trudeau says Canada’s differences precluded clear rules for reopening
All parents are thinking about these issues, he said, and all parents will “want to see that the school system, province, teachers are grappling with” them before moving on to next steps.
“I know that there are an awful lot of people, at all those different levels, working on that right now.”
Trudeau was asked about the issue as Quebec prepares to reopen preschools, elementary schools, and daycares outside of Montreal on May 11; those located in Montreal are slated to reopen on May 19. Under the plan, which does not include high school students, it will be voluntary for children to head back to class.
Though Quebec has the highest number of current COVID-19 cases in the country, Premier Francois Legault has said that, with the exception of long-term care homes and some hospitals, the province is largely stable. Legault has also said opening dates could be pushed back, if necessary.
Trudeau has avoided sharing his views about the plans that provinces are rolling out to reopen their economies, saying that different parts of the country are facing different circumstances. The federal government will help provinces increase testing capacity and acquire personal protective equipment, he said during his press briefing Sunday.
The prime minister’s children, aged 12, 11 and 6, attend a public school in Ontario, where schools are closed until at least May 31 and there are no immediate plans to reopen before the summer.
Appearing on the hugely popular Quebec TV show “Tout Le Monde en Parle” Sunday, Trudeau was asked if he would send his kids back to class if they lived in that province.
The prime minister conceded he didn’t know what he would do in that scenario and would likely make that decision “at the last minute.”
The pandemic has been tough on kids who want to see their friends, he said, as well as parents grappling with anxiety.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was also asked at a press conference in Ottawa Monday if he would be ready to send his children back to school, should the opportunity present itself. Four of Scheer’s five children attend a private school in Ottawa.
Scheer said it’s a “difficult decision” for many parents, but said his family would follow the recommendations of health officials and the provincial government on the matter.
“I can tell you for our part, we’re very much looking forward to being able to send our children back to school,” he said with a slight chuckle. “And, of course, once it’s recommended that it is safe to do so, that’s certainly something that we’re looking forward to doing.”
Asked if he felt Quebec was on the right track reopening parts of its economy when it has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, Scheer said he trusts provincial governments to make those kinds of calls.
“They are best placed to determine where they’re at, both in terms of the number of cases they have and the capacity of their health-care systems to manage potential increases in the number of cases as the economy and society reopens,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press
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