Politics

Trudeau apologizes to First Nation in B.C. for not following up on Truth and Reconciliation Day invite

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized in a conversation with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir for not visiting her community on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday.

Tk'emlúps Nation had twice invited Trudeau to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with them

The Peace Tower glows orange as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a ceremony on Parliament Hill on the eve of the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 29. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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.

Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir speaks at a presentation as the First Nation releases a report outlining the findings of a search of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School property using ground-penetrating radar, in Kamloops, B.C., on July 15. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

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.

WATCH | Residential school survivors, Trudeau speak at ceremony: 

Ottawa marks 1st National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

2 months ago
1:11:02
Residential school survivors and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau honour the lives and communities affected by the residential school system in a ceremony on Parliament Hill on the eve of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 1:11:02

With files from Rosemary Barton and Tyler Buist

now