Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Casimir criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to go surfing on Canada's first-ever Truth and Reconciliation day last month, during the trip to Kamloops, British Columbia on Monday.
Trudeau spoke alongside Chief Roseanne Casimir, survivors of residential schools, and other members of the community, just over two weeks after ignoring two invitations from First Nations tribe to go on vacation in the nearby town of Tofino.
"Welcoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today is bittersweet. When we imagined welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau to our community, it was envisioned that it would be an opportunity for him to interact with a wide array of survivors, intergenerational survivors, and many different First Nations as part of September the 30, the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
"Two letters of invitations were sent to his office to participate in our event. For us, it was to show his commitment to rectify the historical wrongs of residential schools, and to grieve with our residential school survivors, whether in-person, or via virtual, pre-recorded greeting, a message for all of us here.
"Instead, in the middle of truth telling, cultural grounding and sharing that unfolded as part of this commemoration... In this harbour, a journalist quietly informed us that the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on vacation in Tofino."
Chief Casimir described the palpable "shock, anger, sorrow, and disbelief that was felt" throughout the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations, "and the world, to say the least."
Chief Casimir would go on to say that Trudeau's visit on Monday was about rectifying a mistake.
Trudeau's opening statement noted that he "had the opportunity this morning to apologize to the chief and the community in person for not having been here on September 30. This morning we had an important and necessary conversation about how we—not just as Canadians, but as an entire country—move forward, given the reality of residential schools."
Trudeau calls surfing a 'mistake'
Trudeau previously admitted during a press conference to making a mistake, but falling short of offering an apology to all Canadians.
"Before I take questions from the media," said Trudeau, "I want to address the issue of last week. Travelling on September 30 was a mistake, and I regret it. The first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was a time for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people alike to reflect and connect, to think about the past, but also, focus on the future."
"I want to thank Chief Casimir of Kamloops for the conversation we had over the weekend, for which I apologized for not being there with her and her community, for this important day, and I committed to going to visit the Kamloops Tk‘emlúpsemc community in the coming weeks.
"There's a lot for US ALL to do, and I'm committed to doing it," said Trudeau.