OTTAWA — Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to Tofino, B.C. on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was a “complete letdown.”
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Blackstock said the prime minister’s actions did not demonstrate that Indigenous Peoples and specifically survivors of the residential school system “are worth his time.”
“The prime minister decides that he can have a vacation day – he could have had the vacation day tomorrow. I support vacation, I know that they work hard, but not on the very first national day when we’re supposed to be spending the [time] doing the duty of reconciliation,” she said.
Despite a public itinerary that noted that Trudeau was in “private meetings” in Ottawa on Thursday, his office later confirmed he had travelled to the West Coast to spend time with his family.
“Yes the prime minister is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days. And, following his participation in last night’s ceremony marking the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, he is speaking today with residential school survivors from across the country,” the statement read.
Trudeau received two invitations to spend the day in Kamloops, B.C. with residential school survivors.
Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir told an audience on Thursday she had held out hope that Trudeau would make it for the event.
“But I do know that moving forward, it’s really important that he truly uphold those 10 principles, the guiding principles of working with us as First Nations,” she said.
In a tweet, the prime minister said he spent time speaking on the phone with residential school survivors getting their advice on “meaningful” reconciliation.
Parliament passed a bill last June to create an annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation each Sept. 30. It is a statutory holiday for federal workers but the Liberal government has said it’s intended to be a day of reflection, akin to Remembrance Day, not just a day off work.
Politicians weighed in on Twitter with their criticism of the leader’s actions.
Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs tweeted “More atrocious conduct from Trudeau at a time when many communities are looking for leadership. Canada now has the most narcissistic, self-interested Prime Minister in our history.”
Meanwhile, NDP MP Charlie Angus said “He couldn’t have been blunter if he tried. While the nation was struggling to heal and come to terms with the trauma of the attempted destruction of Indigenous people, Justin Trudeau was surfing.”
In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, Trudeau’s colleague Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she can’t speak to the prime minister’s schedule but instead remarked on the significance of the day.
“Listen, this is a day that is the first in our country, it’s a day to remind Canadians about the importance of listening to Indigenous voices and Indigenous people, and that’s exactly what happened across this country,” she said.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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