Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the chief of Tk’emlúps Nation yesterday and offered an apology for not following up on invitations to visit her community, the nation confirmed Sunday.
Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said this week the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation had twice written to Trudeau to invite him to join them to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday.
“I did hold out hope that he would be here,” she said Thursday.
Trudeau was criticized late last week for flying to Tofino, B.C., on Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and spending part of it vacationing with family.
Trudeau had attended a ceremony in Ottawa Wednesday night, but the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Thursday he was spending several days in Tofino with family. He spoke with eight residential school survivors Thursday as well, the PMO said.
But the prime minister’s decision to fly to Tofino showed “his words don’t match his actions,” according to Evelyn Korkmaz, a residential school survivor.
That sentiment echoed sharp criticism from other quarters, including Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip who said Trudeau had “turned his back on Indigenous children.”
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation is near the site of the former Kamloops residential school where about 200 unmarked potential burial sites were detected by a radar survey this spring. The nation held an event Thursday that was attended by, among others, Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was created through a law proposed and passed by the Liberal government this June.
A senior government source, who CBC News is not identifying because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Trudeau and Casimir also discussed next steps and that the prime minister was looking forward to visiting the community soon.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live Sunday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc did not say whether Trudeau had made a mistake by travelling Thursday but that “commitment to reconciliation is profound and shared by all members of our government.”
He reiterated that Trudeau had attended the Wednesday ceremony and had spoken with survivors Thursday.
“His personal commitment to reconciliation is significant,” LeBlanc said.