Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is sorry for disrespecting an Indigenous protester during a Liberal fundraising event Wednesday in Toronto.
Trudeau was speaking to donors at the OMNI King Edward hotel on Wednesday night when a protester stood in front of his podium championing the cause of Grassy Narrows First Nation.
The northern Ontario community is calling for the federal government to provide compensation for years of poisoned water supply that began under Trudeau’s father’s government.
The protester was quickly rushed out of the room by security, but the prime minister had a parting shot.
“Thank you very much for your donation tonight. I really appreciate the donation to the Liberal Party of Canada.”
The social media reaction to the Prime Minister’s comment was swift, with #Thankyouforyourdonation quickly trending on Twitter.
One user tweeted that Trudeau is willing to “mock a community suffering from mercury poisoning, but thinks it’s too dangerous to live in 24 Sussex.”
Justin Trudeau mocks a community suffering from mercury poisoning, but thinks it's too dangerous to live in 24 Sussex
— Christo Aivalis (@christoaivalis) March 28, 2019
Another posted “One has to wonder what the PM’s pal, and vocal Indigenous champion, Gord Downie would have said about this…”
During a press stop in Halifax Thursday morning the prime minister expressed regret for sarcastically thanking the woman.
Speaking in Halifax, Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau apologizes for saying "thank you for your donation" to an indigenous protester at a Liberal fundraiser who raised concerns about mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows. Says party will also refund the cost of the ticket #cdnpoli
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) March 28, 2019
Trudeau says he is often approached by protesters and in this case responded in a way that lacked respect, adding that he’s very sorry.
The protesters would have had to pay $1,500 to get into the room at the fundraiser at a downtown Toronto hotel; Trudeau says those funds will be returned to the protesters.
Trudeau says he will follow up with Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Reagan to encourage progress on the problem of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows.
With files from The Canadian Press