Trudeau says sorry for sarcastic thank you comment to Indigenous protester

Prime Minister under fire for comment made to Indigenous protester who interrupted a Liberal fundraising event

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Thursday for his sarcastic retort to an Indigenous protester who interrupted a Liberal fundraising event the night before in Toronto.

Trudeau said he’s sorry for how he responded to the protester, who unfurled a banner at the foot of the stage in an effort to draw attention to the impact of mercury poisoning in the northern Ontario community of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

“Thank you for your donation,” Trudeau told the woman as she was escorted out by security. “I really appreciate your donation to the Liberal Party of Canada.”

Others in the audience, who paid $1,500 each in order to attend the event, cheered the prime minister’s dismissive remark, which was captured by cellphone cameras and circulated on social media.

Trudeau showed more contrition when asked about the confrontation Thursday.

“As I think you all know, from time to time I’m in situations where people are expressing concerns or protesting a particular thing, and I always try to be respectful and always try to engage with them in a positive way,” he said following an announcement in Halifax.

“That’s how I believe democracy should function, and I didn’t do that last night. Last night I lacked respect towards them and I apologize for that.”

Any funds that the protesters contributed in order to gain access to the event will be refunded, he added.

READ MORE: Grassy Narrows First Nation chief not ‘a believer’ in PM’s reconciliation pledge

“They wanted to express their concerns about an issue and I do take that seriously and I apologize to them.”

Indigenous people in Grassy Narrows, about 90 kilometres north of Kenora, Ont., have been contending for decades with chemical-waste mercury dumped into the English-Wabigoon river system throughout the 1960s and 1970s, poisoning fish and locals who rely on the river as a source of water and food.

The community hopes to build a world-class mercury treatment facility to help deal with the fallout from the poisoning, which causes often irreparable damage, including impaired vision, muscle weakness, speech, hearing and cognitive problems and and numbness or stinging pain in the extremities and mouth.

Grassy Narrows staff met with former Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott in December to discuss progress on the facility, shortly after giving the government a feasibility study for the project. At that time Philpott said the government was actively working to get it built.

Trudeau said he plans to follow up with Seamus O’Reagan, who replaced Philpott on the Indigenous Services file in January, to “make sure we are looking at exactly everything we can do to continue to work hard in resolving this situation.”

“It is something that is of real concern and a real piece of the path of reconciliation that we must walk on,” he said.

Grassy Narrows is about 90 km north of Kenora, Ont.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rivers could rise rapidly as heavy rains hit Lower Mainland

Larger rivers to reach peak levels on Thursday or into Friday, according to high streamflow advisory

Missing Chilliwack man not seen for eight days

Bruce James Madill last known location was on Paula Crescent on Sept. 16

UPDATE: Abbotsford high school killer back in court for ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing

Gabriel Klein was previously convicted of stabbing Letisha Reimer to death

Boulders near Harrison vandalized with derogatory word

Vandalism likely occured between Sunday evening and Tuesday evening

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

B.C. Green leader says NDP abandoning environmental plan

Horgan’s claim of unstable government false, Furstenau says

Horgan promises more child care at $10 per day during Maple Ridge visit

Liberals say the NDP has failed to deliver on daycare

Mounties impound car of impaired driver celebrating birthday in North Vancouver

RCMP say the person was driving with their headlights off

Transgender B.C. brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rainfall warning says significant showers forecast for entire region

Rain moving across Howe Sound, The Fraser Valley and northern parts of Metro Vancouver this morning.

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Most Read