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Canada's PM Justin Trudeau defends burkinis

'We should be past tolerance in Canada,' he told reporters after being asked about burkini bans in France
Some lawmakers in Canada's Quebec province have called for outlawing burkinis (AFP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday 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.

Nice has become the latest French seaside resort to ban the burkini, the body-concealing swimsuit associated with Islamic values that has sparked heated debate in France, city officials said on Friday.

Using language similar to bans imposed in a string of other towns on the French Riviera, the city barred apparel that "overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks".

The wording of the ban in Nice refers specifically to last month's Bastille Day truck attack in the city that claimed 86 lives as well as the murder of a Catholic priest near the northern city of Rouen 12 days later.

Fifteen towns in the southeast, as well as others elsewhere in France, have already banned the burkini, including nearby film festival host city Cannes, where three Muslim women were each fined 38 euros ($43) under the new rule.

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."

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