Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with indigenous leaders just two weeks following a holiday at sea on the day he was supposed to honor survivors of residential schools and their victims.

The decision of his to forgo the formal event on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, was widely criticised.

It honors those indigenous children who had to adapt in the state-funded residential schools.

On Monday, Mr Trudeau visited the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc nation.

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In prepared remarks, Trudeau stated that “I am here today because I regret not being here a few more weeks ago.”

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation – located near the site of the former Kamloops residential school in British Columbia, where the unmarked graves of 215 children were discovered in May – had written twice to invite Mr Trudeau to mark the 30 September date.

After the letters went unanswered and Trudeau initially stated he would hold private meetings in Ottawa, he was then photographed on Tofino’s beach with his family.

On Monday Mr Trudeau spoke out at a media conference, saying he was sorry for not visiting the community on that particular day.

He stated that he was having an important conversation that morning with leaders on the topic of how to “move ahead given the reality that residential schools continue to be a part not only of our past but also our future.”

Rosanne Casimir, chief of Chief Rosanne Casimir described the discovery of unmarked graves belonging to children as “a burden” on the community in remarks made before Trudeau spoke.

The unexpected news Mr Trudeau was on vacation, she called a punch in the gut to the community.

She said that the shock, anger and sorrow felt in their community was evident and rippled around the globe. “Today’s focus is on making positive changes and correcting mistakes.

While she was speaking, Trudeau sat next to her and fidgeted with a pen.

Following her speech, Trudeau complimented Mrs Casimir’s “goodwill” for continuing to support him and the federal government despite his indiscretions.

Trudeau stated, “It’s something we must commit ourselves to doing better on as both a government and as individuals.” He said that “concrete actions” are necessary for the community to be successful, including a healing centre museum.

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He also pledged that “compensation” would be given to any children removed from residential school care.

Parliament announced in June the creation of a new holiday to honor the historical legacy and achievements of residential schools.  

It was one of 94 appeals to government officials for action in the landmark 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

Social media was used by hundreds of thousands across the nation to celebrate the event. Many wore orange shirts, a symbol of support and solidarity for survivors of residential schools, as well as participated in ceremonies.


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