Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official itinerary said he planned to spend National Day for Truth and Reconciliation participating in private meetings in Ottawa on Thursday.
It turns out he flew to Tofino, B.C. – skipping ceremonies in places such as Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc near Kamloops, where more than 200 unmarked graves were found at the site of a former residential school, or in Tofino’s Village Green, a short distance from the luxury beachfront property where he is staying.
Mr. Trudeau’s office said he spent hours on the phone talking to eight residential school survivors. But the Prime Minister’s decision to spend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a new statutory holiday that his government created – on vacation has angered First Nations leaders and others, who suggested his actions have undermined his commitment to reconciliation.
Judith Sayers, president of Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 First Nations in the region, including the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in Tofino, said the Prime Minister should have made time to mark the day.
“It’s almost a flagrant, in-your-face kind of thing – at least to us as Indigenous peoples – because the first national day of Truth and Reconciliation was an important one,” said Dr. Sayers, chancellor of Vancouver Island University, whose ancestral name is Kekinusuqs.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada said in a statement Friday that it was shocked and dismayed by Mr. Trudeau’s decision, particularly after he has stated publicly that no relationship is more important to the Liberal government than that with Indigenous people.
Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said the trip showed “very bad judgment” and questioned if anyone could imagine a Prime Minister trying to explain that he spent Remembrance Day at the beach.
Mr. Trudeau participated in a ceremony to mark the eve of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Wednesday on Parliament Hill.
PMO spokesperson Alex Wellstead said the Prime Minister was staying at the same private residence in an area that he previously visited and the use of this location has been cleared by the Ethics Commissioner. The six-bedroom beachfront property is listed at $18.8-million.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.