Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day on vacation in Tofino, B.C., with his family, despite his official itinerary placing him in private meetings in Ottawa.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the vacation in a statement .
“Yes the PM is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days,” Trudeau’s spokesperson wrote.
“And, following his participation in last night’s ceremony marking the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, he is speaking today with residential school survivors from across the country.”
His office later added that the prime minister’s itinerary would be updated to reflect his correct location.
Trudeau had received at least two invitations to spend the day with survivors and their families. Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, a B.C. First Nation that uncovered the remains of 215 children a residential school site earlier this year, said they had sent “two heartfelt invitations” to Trudeau. He did not attend, spending the day with family in Tofino, rather than to take the community up on their invitation.
The day is a statutory holiday for all federal employees and federally regulated workplaces. However, unlike some other statutory holidays, it isn’t just a day off of work — but a day for reflection, according to survivors. “It’s a day to have reflection. It’s a day to have these conversations.” Charlene Bearhead, the director of reconciliation at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, told the Canadian Press.
A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole criticized Trudeau for the incident.
“Truth and Reconciliation Day shouldn’t be treated like a holiday but that’s what Justin Trudeau did,” said Chelsea Tucker.
She said O’Toole spent the day in Ottawa “taking the opportunity to remember and honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities.”
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attended an “orange shirt day” walk and ceremony Thursday outside Vancouver’s Aboriginal Friendship Centre, according to a spokeswoman.