Trudeau to visit Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc after facing political backlash

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be on Monday at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, a much-anticipated visit from the BC community that explored the unmarked burial sites of former residential school students and touched on national monuments for Indigenous children who died in institutions Had happened.

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Mr Trudeau’s visit comes after the community sent an invitation to the prime minister, to which he did not respond. Earlier this month, Mr Trudeau apologized to the head of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, inviting him to the opening of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada on 30 September, honoring survivors of residential There was one day to do. To remember the schools and the thousands of people who never made it home.

Mr Trudeau attended an event with survivors of schools on Parliament Hill the day before, but did not attend any public events the next day. Instead he traveled with the family to the popular BC tourist destination Tofino. The decision generated considerable political backlash, including from indigenous leaders and opposition parties. Mr Trudeau has since said the decision was a mistake he regrets.

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Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said Mr Trudeau “missed an opportunity” to show his commitment to the survivors of residential schools by his invitation to attend an event marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. By not answering. It also said in a statement that the focus of Mr Trudeau’s visit on Monday should be on “real issues of solution”, not on a “media event to reimburse” his lack of participation on 30 September.

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The First Nation has sought funding for a medical center for Kamloops School survivors and their families. Kamloops once had the largest of Canada’s residential schools. It operated from 1890 to 1969, mostly under Catholic orders, but the federal government ran it as a day school for nine more years before closing in 1978.

Ahead of Mr Trudeau’s visit, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said Mr Trudeau should ensure the visit goes beyond symbolism.

“People are sick and tired of his dramatic, meaningless apologies,” he said.

Norman Yakelea, regional head of the First Nations Assembly of the Northwest Territories, himself a residential school survivor, told Mr Trudeau’s decision to move to Tofino was a “costly mistake”. He said that the Prime Minister will now have to rebuild his commitment and faith.

“Why walk to the beach when we have this important day to honor all the families, the unmarked graves, the residential school with everything?” he said. “I’m there for the family, in the bush, on the ground, whatever. But on this day? It really hurt.”

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Center at the University of British Columbia, said the prime minister has some political work to do to repair the damage done by not visiting the community since the discovery of the unmarked graves. was announced in May.

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“I’m really confused as to why he didn’t go there immediately,” she said.

In relation to the prime minister’s visit to Tofino, Mr Trudeau’s office has faced calls to be more clear about whether he paid for the leave and on discussions he had with the ethics commissioner.

On 1 October, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the use of a property in Tofino had been “approved by the Ethics Commissioner.” Last week, PMO spokesman Alex Wellstead commented further, saying that the rental had been “discussed and reviewed” by the commissioner’s office in 2019, when Mr Trudeau stayed at the same location.

The office did not consult on this for the most recent visit in September.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is prohibited from publicly discussing consultations made by his office. However, his office noted that Mr Trudeau is free to issue the advice he has given. The PMO did not share this information when asked by The Granthshala.

In an interview on Friday, Mr Dion described the limits of what could be publicly revealed as a “straitjacket”. He said his office does not approve visits, but it consults with public-office holders and advises whether the leave will be considered a gift or other benefit that needs to be disclosed. The office also sees whether a person is paying the fair market value for the journey and hence is not required to report the travel.

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“The issue is whether the prime minister or others wants to reveal it to the media – to the public, through the media, and that is for them to decide,” Mr Dion said. “I believe deeply in transparency. I believe incense is the best cleanser.”

Mr Dion said he could not say whether his office is investigating the most recent visit and notify an individual if an investigation has been launched. The PMO did not respond on Friday when asked whether Mr Trudeau had been informed whether the investigation was underway.

“In politics if you have nothing to hide, you answer the question,” said Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus.

With a report by MaryKay Walsh in Ottawa

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