Trudeau apologizes after skipping First Nation reconciliation ceremony for Tofino trip

Click to play video: 'Indigenous leaders demand apology for PM’s Tofino trip'
Indigenous leaders demand apology for PM’s Tofino trip
WATCH ABOVE: Indigenous leaders demand apology for PM's Tofino trip – Oct 1, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized to the chief of a First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. for not taking part in that community’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation ceremony despite being in Tofino last Thursday.

The prime minister telephoned Tk’emlúps Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir and offered her an apology yesterday, Trudeau’s office said Sunday. He also discussed the path forward and told the chief that he hopes to visit her community soon.

The First Nation community had twice invited Trudeau to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with them but the prime minister flew to Tofino, B.C., on Sept. 30 and spent part of it vacationing with family.

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Global News filmed the prime minister walking along a beach.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the vacation in a statement sent to Global News last Thursday.

“Yes the PM is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days,” Trudeau’s spokesperson wrote.

“And, following his participation in last [Wednesday] night’s ceremony marking the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, he is speaking today with residential school survivors from across the country.”

Trudeau’s trip sparked criticism from Indigenous leaders who said it was disrespectful of him not to attend events honouring survivors.

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In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson Sunday, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations said that the government’s “words and actions have to be aligned.”

Click to play video: '‘It’s very hurtful’: National Chief Archibald on Prime Minister’s Tofino vacation'
‘It’s very hurtful’: National Chief Archibald on Prime Minister’s Tofino vacation

“They talk about being committed to our children and the path forward. Yet they fought us in court for years, they fought our children in court. So you can’t do two things at the same time,” Archibald said.

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“When the prime minister talks about reconciliation, please, don’t go on a holiday on the very first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Participate in an event on the day, not the day before. That would be more in alignment with his real commitment to reconciliation.”

Trudeau has yet to visit the burial site of the former Kamloops residential school, where as many as 215 unmarked graves were discovered earlier this year.

The findings set off weeks of mourning across Canada. It saw hundreds of tiny shoes and stuffed animals placed near the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill as well as at other sites around the country to honour the lives of the children who never came home from residential schools.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said the prime minister’s actions were a “slap in the face” to the families of residential school victims.

“The prime minister has spoken on many occasions about the need for reconciliation and said that it was a priority with this government,” Phillip said.

“Yet when he’s faced with the prime opportunity to demonstrate national leadership on this issue, he arrogantly turns his back on Indigenous children and goes to Tofino for a holiday.”

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Trudeau doesn’t have “any respect,” Said Phillip. “He’s completely consumed by his own arrogance and his delusional sense of self-importance.”

With files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

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