When Justin Trudeau was first elected prime minister in 2015, there were political issues he said he wanted to tackle immediately. One of his earliest priorities was a desire to repair Canada’s fractious relationship with the Indigenous community.
“It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples,” he told some Quebec-based First Nations leaders in December 2015. “One that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.”
Has much been done on this particular file?
Plenty of lip service but almost nothing of consequence. Many Indigenous Canadian leaders have expressed disappointment with this federal government, as they have with most others in the past.
Yet there was wide approval of the federal government’s decision to turn the Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (or Orange Shirt Day) into a Canadian statutory holiday. It has been regarded as a day of observance since 2013 but the terrible discovery of more than 1,300 unmarked graves near the sites of former residential schools this year necessitated this change.
Several new programs related to history and education about residential schools were introduced. Ad campaigns appeared in print, and on radio and TV. Students were encouraged to wear orange shirts to school. Meetings with community and business leaders were arranged.
Things went fairly smoothly on Sept. 30. Many Canadians seemed to be engaged. In particular, party leaders of every political stripe held meetings, attended events, and participated on social media and elsewhere.
But one notable Canadian politician did nothing on the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s pretty easy to figure out, but I’ll save you the effort: Trudeau.
The Prime Minister’s Office had the audacity to put out a fake itinerary listing “Private meetings” as the only thing on Trudeau’s agenda on Sept. 30. Instead, he and his family went on vacation under a massive cloak of darkness.
“Trudeau arrived Thursday at a rented $18-million, six-bedroom, oceanside estate – with servant’s quarters,” wrote the Toronto Sun’s Bryan Passifiume on Oct. 1, “on the idyllic Chesterman Beach near Tofino, British Columbia.”
Why he needed that much space, and to rent something that expensive on Vancouver Island, is anyone’s guess (and will surely be a running joke for years to come).
Here’s the worst part.
Our surfer boy PM was apparently invited by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation to join them on Sept. 30 – not once but twice.
If Trudeau had attended this event, some or all of the heat related to his Tofino vacation could have dissipated. He’s either not politically astute enough to figure this out or ignored the advice of political advisers.
Many Indigenous Canadian leaders and activists were understandably furious. Lynne Groulx, head of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, blasted the PM’s “sheer level of callousness.” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC. Indian Chiefs, called his actions a “slap in the face” to residential school survivors.
Many other Canadians felt the same way.
Here’s the thing about the latter group that’s strikingly different: Some of these angry, frustrated voices were part of the meagre 32.62 per cent of Canadians who voted Liberal in the recent federal election.
If you supported Trudeau and you’re furious about his Tofino trip, that’s rather hypocritical.
You’ve had three opportunities to ensure this weak, ineffective leader never came to or stayed in power.
Trudeau has been a national and international embarrassment since 2015. The litany of foolishness ranges from three instances of blackface, spats with (mostly) female MPs and cabinet ministers, ineffective and crippling multibillion-dollar taxpayer-funded policies that have crushed our economy, shifting Canada back to the foreign policy kiddie table, and preposterous use of lines like “peoplekind,” “the budget will balance itself” and critics “experience things differently.”
Trudeau may have apologized for his actions on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation but he clearly has no interest in helping the Indigenous community. It’s debatable whether he’s truly embarrassed by this situation or is laughing in private.
While that’s unfortunate for all Canadians, one-third of this country deserves to share in the blame. You made this political bed, now lie in it.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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