Justin Trudeau took a break this Friday in Iqaluit, the main population of the Canadian Arctic, after the weeks of crisis his government has suffered in the SNC-Lavalin case, in which the prime minister and some collaborators have been accused of interfering in a judicial investigation to a construction company.
Trudeau traveled to this area of the north of the country to officially apologize to members of the Inuit people for the way in which the Administration managed a tuberculosis epidemic between the 40s and 60s. “They were years of isolation, confusion and pain.
Unfortunately, the pernicious government policy towards the tuberculosis epidemic is part of a long history of destructive colonialism, “Trudeau said in an act in which at times he was overwhelmed by emotion.
In those decades, thousands of Inuit people were forced to leave their communities – by means of trains, airplanes and ships to receive treatment. Many of these people died on the way or in Canadian hospitals, without their relatives receiving any information about their fate. “Separate families forever, broken lives that were never repaired. These are mistakes that we can never erase. And Canada must bear this guilt and this shame, “Trudeau said.
The prime minister indicated that apologies are not the only step that needs to be given. At the end of his speech, he announced that the federal government will allocate 27 million Canadian dollars (about 20 million US dollars) to launch a program that allows the Inuits to know what happened to their families during the epidemic.
Trudeau also mentioned different problems that this town has been facing for some time. For example, he referred to the difficulties they have in accessing health care and the lack of food security and decent housing. In this regard, he promised an investment of 640 million Canadian dollars in different areas, within a plan drawn up by the leaders of these communities.
The Trudeau apologies this Friday are not the first ones he offers to Canadian native peoples. In December 2015 and November 2017, the Prime Minister apologized for the treatment that some 150,000 children of indigenous origin received between 1883 and 1996 in federal boarding schools. Physical punishment, racism and sexual abuse were not isolated in some centers of the country.
Since coming to power, Trudeau has indicated that he will seek reconciliation between the indigenous communities and the rest of the Canadians. However, the SNC-Lavalin case has also affected its image, its relationship with indigenous peoples.
Several leaders of these communities have criticized the alleged pressure that Trudeau and some of his collaborators made on what was Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould so that a construction company did not face a trial for having bribed Saadi Gaddafi and other senior officials of the former Libyan regime.
They have also expressed outrage at Wilson-Raybould being dismissed as Justice Minister and Attorney General-he passed the Ministry to Veterans of War but resigned a few weeks later. The now-former prosecutor was the first person of indigenous origin to hold positions of such high importance in Canadian history.
The SNC-Lavalin case has also affected Trudeau in another of its main strongholds. The Prime Minister has enjoyed for several years a solid reputation as a defender of the feminist struggle.
However, members of the opposition, journalists and social network users have criticized the incongruity of this image with the way it allegedly pressured Wilson-Raybould. After the wave of negative comments, Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister, left on Tuesday in her defense: “I am fully convinced that the prime minister is a feminist. I’ve always seemed like an excellent boss for women. “