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LETTER: Cut PM some slack, says ex-Conservative cabinet minister

Justin Trudeau 'has paid full attention to Indigenous affairs during his term of office,' writes Doug Lewis, adding 'the criticism is very subjective'
trudeau with female supporters
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau waded through a jam-packed Mariposa Market Friday during a campaign stop in Orillia during the 2019 election. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters File Photo

MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor. They can be sent to [email protected]. This letter, from former Conservative Cabinet Minister Doug Lewis, is in response to the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to Tofino on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking some heat from Indigenous organizations and the media for allegedly treating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with indifference.

I think that it is an unfair comment and I want to try to make the case that, taken in context, what he did was the right move at the right time. I know that will not be a popular position to take but hear me out.

I make my case as a retired Member of Parliament who served for 13 1/2 years, including six years as a Cabinet Minister. I am a member of the Progressive Conservative Party provincially and the Conservative Party of Canada member federally.

All the returning Members of Parliament elected in 2021 went through a 36-day election campaign which was preceded by a lengthy preparation campaign. Anyone who has served in office at any level and runs in the following election will tell you that it is an exhausting exercise that demands the utmost from you mentally and physically.

I found it so and I am sure that at his level, Prime Minister Trudeau must have found the same.

The Prime Minister is charged with saying one thing and doing another as far as Indigenous affairs are concerned. Having followed politics closely since I retired I beg to differ. In my opinion, Prime Minister Trudeau has paid full attention to Indigenous affairs during his term of office. I don't think that it is fair to accuse him of being two-faced or ignoring the issue. The criticism is very subjective. 

During the election and afterwards the Prime Minister made a point of referencing Indigenous affairs. As I understand it Truth and Reconciliation Day was preceded by a celebration on Parliament Hill which the Prime Minister attended. The next day he flew to B.C. and reportedly spent the day on the telephone with survivors and then with his family.

However, Ms. Lynne Groulx, the head of the Native Women's Associations of Canada, said she was astounded at the “the sheer level of callousness” of Trudeau's actions.

Not to be outdone, Global News chimed in with “breaking news.” They filmed him walking with his wife and later “sitting on a patio with his wife and “what appears to be a beer on the arm of his chair”. This is a slam dunk for “best news story of the year”.

The criticism of Indigenous organizations and the actions of the media are unwarranted.

Now let me deal with the Prime Minister's probable physical and mental state of affairs.

Canadians should want their elected leaders to be “balanced.” Each person has their own perception of what constitutes their balance. If they are married and have children they are entitled to correct their “balance” after an exhausting election campaign. I think it is perfectly normal for the Prime Minister to seek to spend some time on vacation with his family. That provides him with “balance.”

On Truth and Reconciliation Day, every thoughtful parent reflected on what that day meant to Indigenous and non-Indigenous parents.

Let me put it another way. The Prime Minister is “the first among equals” of Canada and has a number of issues to deal with. Do we want a Prime Minister who is rested and regained his family life and balance? Or do we want a Prime Minister who is tired and perhaps not at his or her best as they go forward to deal with the other issues that land on his or her desk?

I suggest that we want him to take a rest (which I know will be short by the standards of the average Canadian) and then attend to business.

Doug Lewis