Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 2, 2019
Trudeau apologizes to Grassy Narrows protester thanked for ‘donation,’ kicked out of Liberal Party fundraiser
Two former women cabinet minister from Justin Trudeau’s government, Jody Wilson-Raybould (Canada’s first indigenous Attorney General and Justice Minister) and Jane Philpott (Treasury Board President), were unceremoniously booted from party caucus today.
This follows an embarrassing moment for the Prime Minister from a few days earlier:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for how he responded to a protester Wednesday evening who was advocating on behalf of a northern Ontario First Nation struggling with health effects linked to historical industrial dumping upstream from the community.
Grassy Narrows First Nation held a protest and demonstration in Toronto on Wednesday evening during a Liberal Party fundraiser to press the Trudeau government on its promise to fund a specialized mercury treatment facility in the northwestern Ontario community that’s about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora.
During the event, the protester appeared to be escorted out of the room while Trudeau thanked her for her “donation.”
“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,” Trudeau told reporters in Halifax on Thursday morning.
“I didn’t do that last night — last night I lacked respect towards them and I apologize.”
Grassy Narrows also is pushing for federal help for remediation of the polluted English-Wabigoon River system and better compensation for people affected by the toxic element.
In a video posted to the Council of Canadians’ verified Facebook page Wednesday evening, a woman is shown standing in front of the stage where Trudeau is standing; she appears to unfurl a banner that references the prime minister and compensation for the “mercury crisis.” She is heard saying “people in Grassy Narrows are suffering from mercury poisoning, you committed to addressing this crisis,” while appearing to be removed from the room.
Trudeau, still on the stage, is heard saying, while facing the direction in which the woman was taken out of the room, “Thank you for being here, thank you very much for your donation tonight, I really appreciate it,” which draws cheers and applause from the crowd.
The Grassy Narrows protest in Toronto was at the Omni King Edward Hotel, where Trudeau was scheduled to appear at a Laurier Club donor “appreciation event.”
Former Indigenous services minister Jane Philpott pledged in late 2017 that Ottawa would fund the development and construction of a treatment facility for people exposed to mercury-related illnesses in Grassy Narrows. A number of studies have linked the comparatively poor health of people in the community to the dumping of mercury-contaminated effluent by Reed Paper, former owners of the mill in Dryden, into the river where members of the First Nation have traditionally fished.
The dumping also affected Wabaseemoong, another First Nation, about 100 kilometres northwest of Kenora. (Source: CBC News)