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Trudeau spends National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with family in Tofino

PM says he spoke on the phone with survivors, Tofino event organizers disappointed he didn’t attend
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau vacationing at a beachfront property in Tofino on Sept. 30. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Tofino.

“The Prime Minister is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days. And, following his participation in last night’s ceremony marking the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, he is speaking today with residential school survivors from across the country,” the Office of the Prime Minister said in an emailed statement to the Westerly News on Sept. 30.

The prime minister’s itinerary initially stated he was spending the day attending private meetings in Ottawa, but was later changed to private meetings in Tofino.

He is not believed to have attended the community’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation rally led by survivors of Residential Schools with support from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council vice president Mariah Charleson told the Westerly News after the rally in Tofino that she was disappointed not to see Trudeau participate in the day’s local events.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s absolutely not shocking and we have to demand more from the head of a government that continues to say that reconciliation is a top priority. We need to see action to match those words,” Charleson said.

“Today, what I experienced was watching survivors tell their stories. I wish that he could have been there. I think he would have learned a lot in participating and being present, opening his heart, opening his mind, but it speaks volumes the fact that he’s in Tla-o-qui-aht territory and hasn’t acknowledged the significance of what today means to this community and surrounding communities…He could have chosen today to make a huge statement and to be there to witness, to listen, to open his heart and open his mind to the survivors’ stories.”

Tofino mayor Dan Law told the Westerly he was at the Truth and Reconciliation rally when he was informed Trudeau was in town.

“I think people can make up their own minds on where he should have been and what he should have been doing,” Law said.

“It gave me a moment of pause while I was at the ceremonies put on by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and to hear the stories of the residential school survivors and then to think of politicans perhaps being on vacation, but again we don’t really know what the prime minister was doing today. It did give me a pause.”

Law said he felt “honoured” to attend the rally.

“Now is the time to listen, to let the stories go into our hearts collectively so that we can change and we can make changes in our community, in our province and across the country. Personally I think it’s a very important day for people in leadership to stop and really consider the future and how we’re going to really and practically right historical wrongs,” he said.

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