OTTAWA (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday (Aug 22) defended individual rights and freedoms while touting cultural diversity and tolerance when asked about a controversy swirling in France over a burkini ban.
"We should be past tolerance in Canada," Trudeau told reporters after meeting with his ministers to plan the government's legislative agenda.
Some lawmakers in Canada's Quebec province have called for outlawing "burkinis" - body-concealing Islamic swimsuits - following bans in at least 15 towns in France's southeast.
They include the French Riviera resort town of Nice, the target of a jihadist attack on July 14, with the proponents citing the need to prevent public disorder.
Trudeau called for "the respect of individual rights and choices." This, he said, should be "at the top of public discourse and debate." Trudeau dismissed the idea of a burkini ban in Canada, saying Canadians should rise above the controversy.
"In Canada, can we speak of acceptance, openness, friendship, understanding? It is about where we are going and what we are going through every day in our diverse and rich communities," he said.
Trudeau bemoaned instances where governments preach tolerance but act to undermine individual rights, saying with irony: "Tolerating someone means accepting their right to exist on the condition that they don't disturb us too, too much."