Canada’s prime minister had only been back in office for 10 days when he made the first major misstep of his new tenure.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not respond to two invitations to spend the first-ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Kamloops, and then was spotted by media walking a beach in Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast.
The PM’s agenda released for Sept. 30 simply said ‘private meetings’ and indicated he would be in Ottawa.
If he had stayed home and kept silent, an argument could be made that he wanted others’ voices to rise on the nation’s first Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
However, his plane literally passed over Kamloops as it transported him to Tofino where his family was vacationing.
It is difficult not to perceive this as a snub to the survivors in Kamloops who are particularly feeling the pain of the first discoveries of unmarked gravesites near the former residential school in the area.
The numbers of unmarked graves at other residential school sites keep climbing, making this inaugural day particularly poignant.
While he has apologized privately to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir for not attending the Kamloops ceremony, Trudeau had yet to explain himself publicly this week.
There were numerous events on the West Coast where Trudeau could have quietly acknowledged the day. Nuu-chah-nulth leaders, upon whose land Trudeau’s vacation home sits, expressed disappointment that he didn’t make an appearance anywhere.
Everyone deserves some time off, even the prime minister, but there is a time and a place. Trudeau is the leader of our country and people are looking to him for guidance in how to navigate this relatively new path of reconciliation.
His actions suggest he didn’t ‘read the room’ and it has cost him the respect of many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the country.
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