VANCOUVER — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “regrets” comments he made about Sen. Patrick Brazeau in Rolling Stone, but an Indigenous advocate wants him to express his remorse in a letter to the popular U.S. magazine.
Trudeau told Rolling Stone in a story titled “Justin Trudeau: The North Star,” that his choice of Brazeau as an opponent in a March 2012 charity boxing match “wasn’t random.” Brazeau is from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec.
“I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy tough-guy senator from an Indigenous community. He fit the bill and it was a very nice counterpoint,” Trudeau told the magazine.
“I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell,” he said about the cancer-fundraiser fight he won in Ottawa when he was a member of Parliament.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said in a CBC radio interview in Vancouver that he regretted his choice of language in describing the Independent senator.
“The way I have personally engaged with Indigenous leadership and Indigenous communities over the past years and certainly as we’re doing it as a government, recognizes that there are a lot of patterns to change,” said Trudeau, who has made reconciliation with First Nations a top priority.
“I try and make sure that we’re staying focused on recognizing that true reconciliation involves changing approaches and changing mindset. The way I framed it and characterized that doesn’t contribute to the positive spirit of reconciliation that I like to think and I know my government stands for.”
Brazeau declined comment.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, said she’s glad Trudeau apologized for comments, saying the image of “the savage and the civilized” has dominated Canadian government for too long.
However, it’s important for the prime minister to set the record straight in a letter to Rolling Stone “so the same people who read that article actually get to learn from the humility of him saying what he did was wrong and why it was wrong,” she said.
“The idea that you would go searching for an Indigenous person to engage in an exercise with the aim, really, of making yourself look good, as that seems to imply, is disturbing.”
In February, Trudeau was criticized by NDP member of Parliament Romeo Saganash, a former Cree leader, about remarks the prime minister made in response to a question on funding to First Nations communities.
Trudeau told a town hall in Saskatoon that he’d spoken with a number of First Nations chiefs who said young people need youth centres with TVs and sofas so they can hang out.
“When a chief says that to me I pretty much know they haven’t actually talked to their young people,” Trudeau said at the town hall.
“Most of the young people I’ve talked are asking for a place to store their canoes and paddles so they can connect back out on the land and a place with Internet access so they can do their homework in a meaningful way because their homes are often too crowded and they need a place to work and study.”
Saganash called Trudeau’s comments ignorant and insulting. He wrote a satirical letter saying a national canoe and paddle program must have been a “secret” recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
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