Categories for Musings

My latest: I think Trudeau is going to leave

Always look for the silver lining, our moms told us. It’s there.

In the case of the Justin Trudeau surf vacation, it’s hard to spot the silver lining. Because the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation wasn’t a good one. At all.

To recap:

  • Justin Trudeau and his office bald-faced lied about where he was on Sept. 30. He wasn’t in Ottawa for “meetings,” as they claimed.
  • He was on a Challenger jet with his entourage, heading to British Columbia, spewing greenhouse gases that were the equivalent to what an average Canadian family generates in an entire year.
  • He and his office said he would be meeting with “residential school survivors.” That was a lie, too. He allegedly made a phone call or two to some Indigenous people. We don’t know who or how many, exactly.
  • Trudeau and co. headed to Tofino, which is at the heart of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, a sacred place of profound significance to Indigenous people. Trudeau wasn’t there for any of that, or even to meet briefly with the First Nation. He was there for the surfer’s beach, which he’d been to many times before.
  • Oh, and the mansion. Trudeau and his entourage were staying at an $18-million oceanfront estate.

All this, on a day that Trudeau himself created to remember thousands of Indigenous children who had lost their lives at so-called residential schools and then were dropped into unmarked graves.

When the truth emerged — thanks to some outstanding media sleuthing by the Toronto Sun’s Bryan Passifiume, Global News and others — Trudeau’s office disappeared the false statement about his whereabouts.

They also belatedly claimed Trudeau apologized to Tk’emlA0ps Nation Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir. Casimir had previously twice invited Trudeau to spend the first Truth and Reconciliation Day with her people, where the bodies of Indigenous children were discovered, months ago.

Trudeau went to a mansion on a surfing beach instead.

Indigenous leaders reacted as you would expect they would — with shock, with dismay, with outrage. Speaking for many, Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said Trudeau’s after-the-fact apology wasn’t good enough.

Said Archibald: “Hollow apologies will no longer be accepted. As national chief, on behalf of all First Nations, I expect concrete action and changed behaviour.”

But will the behaviour change?

With Trudeau’s cult-like followers, that is unlikely. Initially, they said the scandal wasn’t one. After Trudeau apologized, they did a volte-face and said his apology put an end to the scandal.

What else would one expect from such a cult, which one CNN broadcaster once called “TruAnon?” If they could rationalize racist blackface, allegations about groping a woman, and obstruction of justice, the Tofino scandal would be barely an afterthought.

But what about Trudeau? Did he notice the outrage? Did he — does he — care?

Trudeau famously pays little to no attention to the mainstream news media, so his surfing holiday was likely undisturbed by any of that — save and except a brave Global News crew who tried to question Trudeau on a Tofino beach, and were chased away by taxpayer-funded security goons.

What about the avalanche of anger on social media? There, too, Trudeau doesn’t spend much time. Apart from approving the photos his official photographer uploads to Instagram, Trudeau doesn’t run his own Twitter and Facebook accounts.

So, maybe he doesn’t truly know how angry people are. Perhaps he doesn’t know, either, the damage he did to Canada-Indigenous relations. Those are all dark, dark clouds, as our moms would say.

But here is the silver lining: I don’t think Justin Trudeau wants to do the job anymore. I think he wanted a majority government, didn’t get one, and now he wants out.

I now think, more than ever before, he wants to leave.

And that, my friends, is a real silver lining.

— Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant

My latest: no truth. No reconciliation.

Neither truthful nor reconciling.

Justin Trudeau, that is.  With Canada’s Indigenous peoples, he promised to be both.  He hasn’t been either.

Tomorrow, on one day of all days, the day the Trudeau government itself designated as the “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation,” it’s important. But not for the reasons Trudeau typically likes to cite.

Because that day is emblematic of his failure to address the priorities of Indigenous people. Politically, socially, legally.

Politically?  Well, as this writer has noted in these pages in the past, the Indigenous vote is significant.  In tight electoral contests – like the one we just had – Indigenous voters can make the difference.

Fully 5% of Canada’s population identify as Indigenous — which is close to two million people. First Nation, Inuit and Metis voters, age 18 and up, can number as many as a million voters.

But as no less than Elections Canada has acknowledged: “A significant number of Aboriginal [sic] people, as individuals and communities, still regard participation in non-Aboriginal elections or plebiscites as a threat to their unique rights, their autonomy and their goals of self-governance. Such persons hold a philosophical belief about the legitimacy of Aboriginal self-governance that differs fundamentally from that of the Canadian government.”

It’s not just a “philosophical belief,” either. Indigenous systems of government existed for centuries before white Europeans got here.  When those colonialists arrived, they started to impose European-style government on Indigenous communities, by force.

In the intervening Centuries, not much has changed, either.  Trudeau’s minister in charge of Crown-Indigenous Relations has repeatedly refused to meet with Chiefs and clan mothers who don’t accept colonialist rules about elections and representation.

Not very reconciling, is it?

Socially, too, Justin Trudeau’s actions have not matched his soaring rhetoric. He promised, repeatedly, to better the lives of Indigenous people. His 2015 election platform, for instance, solemnly promised to provide clean water to Indigenous communities – thereby ending the so-called boil water advisories. But Trudeau’s government hasn’t done that.

As Indigenous activist Jonny Bowhunter has noted on Twitter, there are 45 long-term and 35 short-term boil water advisories in place in Canada right now, today.  As Bowhunter puts it: “The Trudeau government talks of reconciliation, but breaks every promise they made on the ongoing [Indigenous] water and housing crisis.”

His failure doesn’t include just water and housing, either.  Trudeau and his ministers pledged to make Indigenous lives safer and better.  But, at places like Grassy Narrows, mercury still poisons the environment and the people who live there.

And, when a single female protestor tried to draw attention to that fact at an exclusive Liberal Party fundraiser in 2019, Trudeau had her ejected, sneering: “Thanks for your donation.”

That’s not reconciliation.

Legally, too, there has been little truth, and no reconciliation at all.  On Wednesday, the Federal Court threw out Trudeau’s attempt to deny or delay a landmark human rights tribunal compensation order for First Nations children.  That means the federal government may need to pay out billions in compensation for their failures to help poverty-stricken Indigenous children.

But Wednesday’s ruling didn’t stop Trudeau from spending astonishing $100 million on legal fees, fighting that human rights decision for half a decade.  One hundred million dollars: think how reconciliation could have been advanced with that much money.

But Indigenous truth and reconciliation – even on this, the day dedicated to both – has never really been Justin Trudeau’s priority.  Yeah, sure: up above our heads, he flies the flag at half-mast to remember thousands of Indigenous children killed at residential schools.

But down here on the ground, where it matters, he spends millions on lawyers to fight them in court.

Kinsella was a federal ministerial special representative to Indigenous communities from 2003 to 2015. His Daisy Group represents First Nations from B.C. to Ontario.