Justin Trudeau chose travel and recreation on the day the nation observed truth and reconciliation.
In his first news conference since returning from Vancouver Island, the Prime Minister called it a mistake that he regrets.
Instead of donning an orange shirt at one of Canada’s many Sept. 30 ceremonies, he embarked on a long weekend vacation at his favourite surfing spot. His staff even tried to keep it a secret.
“I think the how it happened is far less important than that it happened, which I regret,” he told reporters in Ottawa on Oct. 6.
It wasn’t the first time a politician in British Columbia snubbed First Nations and sparked a public backlash.
Four months before Trudeau led the Liberals back to power, BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark decided to close the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver for a mass yoga class to mark the United Nations’ international day for yoga on June 21, 2015.
She called it “Om the Bridge” and it would cost taxpayers $150,000. The sponsors were Lululemon and AltaGas. Meanwhile, across town, signage for Adidas and Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom were prominently displayed at pitch-level during the Canada 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in B.C. Place Stadium.
Clark announced her event three days after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its summary report. It didn’t take long for British Columbians to notice that June 21 was also National Aboriginal Day.
A social media uproar ensued. Protesters planned to disrupt the yoga event.
Clark doubled down. She Tweeted a selfie outside a Tai Chi studio under the message “Hey Yoga haters — bet you can’t wait for International Tai Chi Day.”
The next day, the sponsors withdrew. Then Clark, too: “Yoga Day is a great opportunity to celebrate peace and harmony – it’s not about politics. I don’t intend to participate.”
Who was advising Clark? Her key communications aide was Ben Chin, who now works in Trudeau’s office.
No yoga photo op for Clark. But, unlike Trudeau on Truth and Reconciliation Day 2021, Clark did attend an Aboriginal Day 2015 event.
She flew a private charter jet to the riding she represented in Kelowna and Tweeted a photo shot at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society Aboriginal Day celebration. Clark quickly returned to Vancouver to attend Canada’s Women’s World Cup win against Switzerland at B.C. Place Stadium.
But the damage was already done, even without a single downward dog on the bridge.
The mid-term mistake was the beginning of the end for her political career. Just over two years later, the NDP and Greens ganged up to defeat her minority government in a dramatic confidence vote.
Just 10 days after failing to turn his minority into a majority, Trudeau turned his back on indigenous Canadians and went for a walk in the sand.
Was it the beginning of the end for him?
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