Jagmeet Singh has apologized to the head of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations for not heeding a call to address the organization’s annual meeting.
“That was a mistake and I take responsibility,” Singh said during a campaign stop in Toronto.
“That should have never happened.”
The assembly said in a news release that leaders of the three main federal parties were invited to appear digitally to address chiefs at the two-day meeting this week. A lack of response puts the commitment to true and lasting reconciliation in question, the assembly said.
“They have all paid a great deal of lip service to Indigenous issues, but are unwilling to actually appear before the leadership of First Nations in B.C.,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
“If they can’t spend ten minutes addressing these issues during the election, what kind of attention will they pay to reconciliation once they are elected?”
The B.C. Assembly of First Nations represents all 204 First Nations in the province.
“Grand chief, my apologies,” Singh said. “I’m going to make sure we get this right.”
Singh has positioned himself as an ally to Indigenous voters. He was the first leader to campaign on a reserve and spent Monday in Neskantaga First Nation, a fly-in northern Ontario community with Canada’s longest water advisory.
The leader’s campaign is now turning its sights towards sought-after seats in Ontario, including Toronto Centre.
The New Democrats came in third there during a byelection prompted by Liberal Bill Morneau’s resignation last year. It’s also being sought by Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.
While reiterating a commitment to lowering cellphone and internet prices, Singh faced a heckler who yelled about the “new world order,” communism and COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Singh will later be stopping in Kitchener Centre, where incumbent Liberal Raj Saini resigned earlier in the campaign after facing allegations that he harassed a female staff member, claims he firmly denies.