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Commemoration (79-83)

Prime Minster Trudeau vacation on first National National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021

Toronto Star – Prime Minister Trudeau on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation “to remember the legacy of residential schools” chose instead to go on a family vacation to Tofino in BC. “With all such firsts, part of the struggle is to make people take it seriously. It should not be just a day off for those who get such a benefit, or something to be acknowledged only in passing. That is, if it’s going to be anything more than an empty gesture. Political leaders obviously should set an example for the rest of us. So seeing the prime minister use the inaugural national day to start a personal holiday, however well-deserved, is frankly infuriating. (It’s even worse that his official itinerary first showed him spending Thursday in private meetings in Ottawa, and was only later updated to acknowledge the trip to Tofino.)

What did Indigenous leaders say:

The Native Women’s Association of Canada says the trip casts doubt on the prime minister’s sincerity when he says no relationship is more important to him than that with Indigenous peoples: “Those words ring incredibly hollow when Mr. Trudeau could not take the time that his own government set aside to reflect upon the tragedy of the Indian residential schools and instead chose to flit off to Tofino for a holiday.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the way Trudeau chose to spend the first national day was a “slap in the face” to residential school survivors.

And the First Nation that first discovered unmarked graves of children near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., said it had issued two written invitations for the prime minister to attend a ceremony there on Thursday. He would have flown practically right over Kamloops on his trip to Vancouver Island, but clearly didn’t bother to stop.

Indeed, he could have done something meaningful in Tofino itself. Members of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council held a walk there to mark the national day, and vice-president Mariah Charleson said they were shocked that they didn’t even know the prime minister would be in the area. “It’s the first day Canada has said countrywide, let’s find a way to move forward,” she said. “And our top leader of our country did not choose to do that. It’s heartbreaking, honestly.”

What’s left to say after that?