By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Indigenous leaders are criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to take a family vacation on the inaugural National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
Rather than attend memorials for residential school survivors in-person on Sept. 30, Trudeau and his family travelled to Tofino, B.C. However, he did attend a ceremony in Ottawa the previous night and spoke with eight residential school survivors over the phone the day of.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir twice invited Trudeau to attend a Sept. 30 ceremony honouring the 215 children whose bodies were found at the nearby site of the former Kamloops Residential School, but says she received no response.
Trudeau reportedly phoned Casimir to apologize on Oct. 2, but has not explained why he didn’t respond to her requests to attend the event. Video obtained by Global News showed Trudeau walking on a beach on Sept. 30.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Truth and Reconciliation walk began Thursday morning at the Nation’s Tin Wis resort on the former site of the Christie Residential School — just a kilometre north of the $18.8-million beachfront property the Trudeaus stayed at, the Globe and Mail reported.
Mariah Charleson, the vice president of Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which Tla-o-qui-aht belongs to, said Trudeau gave them no indication he would be in the area.
“When we finally saw Canada respond to the call to action to make this a national holiday we thought maybe Trudeau is getting it,” she told the Toronto Star. “But to hear that he has shown up unannounced, it shows that he didn’t take this day seriously.”
The prime minister will be visiting Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc “in the near future,” Trudeau spokesperson Alex Wellstead told the Globe.
Assembly of First Nations Chief RoseAnne Archibald said in an Oct. 3 statement that Trudeau “must demonstrate through actions that he is committed to the healing path forward.”
As I stated to the Catholic church, hollow apologies will no longer be accepted,” Archibald wrote.
She also requested media give as much attention to the stories of survivors as it did to Trudeau’s vacation.