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

Sylvan Lake businesses satisfied working in town, survey

The Chamber surveyed 100 local businesses and found 82 per cent are satisfied working in Sylvan Lake

UPDATE: Sylvan Lake RCMP on scene at serious, multi vehicle collision

There is no access westbound on Aspelund Road from the intersection.

Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce urges for end to rail blockades

Chamber President Keri Pratt urged the MP Blaine Calkins to help bring an end to the disruptions

Sylvan Lakers take a frozen dip for a cause

The annual Polar Bear Dip held during Winterfest is a fundraiser for organizations around town

Sylvan Lake Wranglers advance to face rival Red Deer

The Sylvan Lake Wranglers defeated the Rocky Rams in first round playoff action three games to one

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Portrait of the Coastal GasLink, a pipeline to divide a nation

In mid-February, 46 per cent of the pipeline route had been cleared

Alberta ends master agreement with doctors, new rules to be in place April 1

The current master agreement with physicians ends March 31

Alberta rail conductor fired for social media posts awarded money, but not reinstatement

Arbitrator Richard Hornung says that he agreed with the Teamsters union

Kids exposed to household cleaners as newborns more likely to get asthma: study

Air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners were the worst culprits

Burger King breaks the mould with new advertising campaign

The company is known for irreverent ad campaigns

PHOTOS: RCMP call on kids to name latest police puppy recruits

This year’s theme is the letter ‘N,’ and 13 German shephards must be named

Federal minister pledges to meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs in B.C. over natural gas pipeline

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they are visiting Mohawk territory

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Most Read