Nfld. & Labrador

'I don't quit': Perry Trimper vows to remain as MHA, as Innu Nation says there should be no 3rd chance

Trimper says he won't run in the next election but will stay on until then to represent people in his district of Lake Melville.

Lake Melville MHA says he'll stay in role until next election

Perry Trimper says he will stay on as Lake Melville MHA until a provincial election is called. No date has yet been set. (CBC)

Despite calls for his immediate resignation as MHA for Lake Melville, Perry Trimper is vowing to hold his seat until the next election.

"I don't quit. I made a commitment to the people of Lake Melville that I would serve as their representative, and I would do it to the best of my abilities, so I will do that," Trimper told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning on Tuesday.

The Innu Nation has called on Trimper to quit politics altogether. On Monday, Trimper said he was withdrawing as candidate for Lake Melville in the next general election. Trimper also said he was stepping away from his Liberal caucus roles as a parliamentary secretary and special advisor on climate change to the premier.

That's not enough, said Mary Ann Nui, the deputy chief of the Innu Nation. 

"It really concerns me, because Perry Trimper has not learned anything from the past year," Nui told CBC News Tuesday afternoon. 

In a statement, the Innu Nation said Trimper's remaining in caucus is, by default, "acceptance of systemic racism by both the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and only serves to demonstrate further failure by Mr. Trimper to take responsibility for his actions."

Trimper, who had little to say at the House of Assembly Monday, refused again Tuesday to address the comments that led to the controversy in the first place.

Last week, Trimper said homeless people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay were "choosing" a risky lifestyle, in the wake of a video that showed a homeless Inuk man being thrown to the ground during an arrest in the town by a municipal enforcement officer. 

Trimper has since apologized, but on Tuesday said he would not comment further on the matter, pointing to the statement he released on Monday. 

"I'm not going to go into an analysis in this manner, but I'll suffice to say I do appreciate all those who understand my intentions, my actions, and I thank them very much for that," Trimper said.

Nui said Trimper's comments point to a serious problem. 

"He doesn't understand the impacts that residential schools had toward Indigenous people of Labrador, which is Innu and Inuit. And he has no sensitivity toward Indigenous people of Labrador. To me, that is a very racist remark for what he said," Nui said. 

Deputy Grand Chief Mary Ann Nui, right, see here with Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich, says Trimper should not get another chance from the Liberal government. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

No 'third chance'

In September 2019, Trimper resigned as municipal affairs and environment minister and apologized after accidentally leaving a conversation with a colleague on a voicemail to an Innu Nation staff member, in which he complained that the Innu were playing "the race card" against him. 

In its statement, the Innu Nation said the 2019 apology was Trimper making "excuses for his behaviour," while the more recent apology "is indicative of his failure to understand systemic racism and a willingness to engage in victim-blaming that renders him incapable of representing Indigenous people."

"Last time Perry Trimper made comments, it was on the voicemail. He said he would learn from it," said Nui.

But Nui said that didn't happen.

"There shouldn't be any third chances. He was given a second chance from the provincial government, and I think he failed that."

Nui said prior to the recent comments, Innu leaders met with Premier Andrew Furey to voice their concerns about their elected representative.

"We raised a concern with Premier Furey about it back in August, and we told Premier Furey that we do not want Perry Trimper to represent Innu Nation at all. And we made it very clear," she said.

The date of the next provincial election has not been set. Nui said since Trimper could remain as MHA for months to come, "having him remain as their MHA is not something they can support."

Trimper thanked people of his district for their support, and said there has been "a great avalanche of calls, emails, messages, and it's very encouraging."

Crosbie: 'a disgrace'

After question period Tuesday, Education Minister Tom Osborne confirmed Furey has spoken with Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich but said he doesn't know the "nature of the discussion."

Furey declined requests to speak to reporters after question period. Opposition leader Ches Crosbie called the decision "a disgrace."

"We have two things going on here in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, and they're foundational to government policy and our existence as a province," Crosbie said. 

"One is Indigenous reconciliation — that's crumbling — and the second is the offshore. That's crumbling. And the premier of the province will not be accountable by coming out and fielding press questions while this is going on. That is a disgrace."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning and Chris O'Neill-Yates

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