Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that traveling to Tofino on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was a mistake and he regretted it.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa for the first time since his visit to the popular BC tourist destination, Trudeau said the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was an important moment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to reflect on and remember .
“It was a mistake to travel on 30 September, and I am sorry,” Trudeau said on Wednesday. “‘I’m focused on making it right.'”
Mr Trudeau faced continued criticism from Indigenous leaders and opposition parties for deciding to fly to Tofino on Thursday, the first time the country was formally attended by survivors of Indian residential schools and institutions. Honoring the dead.
Before Mr Trudeau’s apology, Glen Hare, Ontario’s regional head for the First Nations Assembly, said in a statement that the prime minister’s action on the national day was a “serious lapse in judgement”.
Mr Hare also hoped that the Prime Minister would accept any invitation from the First Nations Head of State “in solidarity with all residential school survivors, families and their communities”.
Mr Trudeau’s public travel schedule for last Thursday said he was holding private meetings in Ottawa, but the Canadian Army plane he was traveling in was picked up on the flight radar. When asked about the whereabouts of the prime minister, the office later confirmed that he was in Tofino with the family.
His office also said that he spoke with eight survivors of the schools that day and noted that they attended an event on Parliament Hill on the eve of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
The prime minister thanked Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (chief) Rosanne Casimir on Wednesday for taking her call this weekend so that she can directly apologize for not being with her community that day.
Last week, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the prime minister did not respond to an invitation to attend a ceremony near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School where nearly 200 unmarked graves were located after a radar search earlier this year.
“I look forward to visiting Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc in person very soon,” Mr Trudeau said.
Over the weekend, Trudeau spoke to Ms Casimir to apologize, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said. The office did not give details about the nature of the conversation between them.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was created by Mr Trudeau’s liberal government. Since forming the government in 2015, Mr Trudeau has reiterated that the most important relationship for him and his government is with indigenous peoples.
Mr Hare said on Wednesday that much work remains for communities to recover from “the legacy and cultural carnage of residential schools”.
He said the prime minister and the federal government must demonstrate full commitment to moving forward with First Nations, including the full implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission actions and ensuring that there is full support for school survivors and children. who never returned.
With files from MaryKay Walshow
For subscribers: Receive exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for politics briefing.