B.C. First Nations leaders blast Trudeau for spending Truth and Reconciliation Day in Tofino

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is meant to be a day of reflection on the history and legacy of residential schools.

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B.C. First Nations leaders blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for flying to Tofino to join his family and not doing enough to mark Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.


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Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said Trudeau’s decision to jet to Tofino and not attend any of the multiple ceremonies and events held across the country Thursday to commemorate Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools was a “slap in the face” of survivors.

“Given the fact this is a nationally recognized holiday in regards to truth and reconciliation, it would have been appropriate for the prime minister to fully acknowledge this day,” said Phillip. “Rather than do that, he has chosen to turn his back on the historical significance of today and hide out in Tofino.”

The Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation, which held a ceremony to commemorate the 215 unmarked children’s graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, noted on Twitter that it had sent two “heartfelt” invitations to Trudeau to join them.


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The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a statutory holiday for federal workers, and is meant to be a day of reflection on the history and legacy of residential schools.

Trudeau’s official schedule had originally placed him in Ottawa for “private meetings.” A spokesman later confirmed the prime minister flew to Tofino to join his family for a few days, but denied he was taking a vacation.

Spokesman Alex Wellstead said Trudeau spent “hours” on the phone Thursday speaking to survivors of the schools “to hear their stories of trauma and healing, to hear their advice on the path forward.”

Trudeau attended a Truth and Reconciliation Day ceremony Wednesday night on Parliament Hill.

But that isn’t good enough, said Phillip. “Reconciliation demands a very serious and sincere commitment by all Canadians. It is not a drive-by issue.”


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Terry Teegee, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Trudeau could have shown respect and leadership by appearing in person on such an important day.

“I don’t understand,” said Teegee. “He is a political leader, a public servant, and today would have been a good day to really demonstrate his commitment toward Indigenous people, to deal with a lot of the ongoing issues, including the long-term legacy of Indian residential schools.”

— with files from Canadian Press

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