Town hall meeting in Kamloops gets heated between public and PM - InfoNews

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Town hall meeting in Kamloops gets heated between public and PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes questions from the public at a town hall meeting at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.
January 10, 2019 - 10:47 AM

KAMLOOPS — Around 1,000 people packed into the Old Gymnasium at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops last night for the Prime Minister's first town hall meeting of 2019, and as anticipated, many of the people who showed up voiced strong opinions.

Justin Trudeau's two-day visit to Kamloops began yesterday with a Liberal Party of Canada fundraiser at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre where he focused on the positive accomplishments of his government over his term of office. The fundraising event in the afternoon was followed by the town hall meeting at TRU last night, Jan. 9.

Trudeau stood in the centre of the gymnasium and took questions from the public at random, his style at previous town hall meetings.

The interruptions and heated questions didn’t start off right away, with the first question asked: “What’s your favourite part about your day? What makes you happy?”

“It really depends on the day,” Trudeau said. “My favourite part about this day is the beginning of the town hall, we’ll see if the end of the town hall is as happy for me as the beginning of the town hall.’’

And it didn’t long for the questions to change in tone.

In the middle of Trudeau answering a question regarding the oil and gas industry, a man who identified himself as Will George stood up and began yelling at the prime minister saying Trudeau was lying about wanting reconciliation with First Nations.

"You're getting people arrested," George said. "You're a liar and a weak leader. What do you tell your children?"

Trudeau asked the man several times to sit down and let him answer the original question, eventually, the man apologized and sat down.

Trudeau’s next fiery exchange came from a First Nations woman who only identified herself as Tilly.

“I want to ask you what are you going to do to stop oppressing our people, when are you going to give us our rights back, when are you going to start giving a shit about who we are as people?” she said.

The question was met by applause from several others in the gymnasium.

A woman who identified herself as Tilly (second from right) asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a question regarding the oppression and suffering of Indigenous people at a town hall meeting in Kamloops on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.
A woman who identified herself as Tilly (second from right) asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a question regarding the oppression and suffering of Indigenous people at a town hall meeting in Kamloops on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.

“Canada has a long and terrible history in regards to Indigenous people,” Trudeau said. “We have not treated our Indigenous people as partners, we have marginalized.”

The Prime Minister explained how the services and relationships among Indigenous people need to improve.

Tilly yelled at Trudeau that he was afraid to lose the benefits he was receiving from the oppression and suffering of First Nations people.

“You are afraid to lose your comfort,” Tilly said. “Start making better choices for everyone on this land.”

Trudeau disagreed and said he was ready to walk in partnership with Indigenous people and that’s what his government has been doing for the past three years.

“I understand your impatience,” he said.

A woman wearing a T-shirt with the words
A woman wearing a T-shirt with the words "The blood of our children is on your hands" asks the Prime Minister a question on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

Other questions ranged from issues around the environment, Trudeau’s recent trips to Japan and India, accessibility challenges and carbon laws.

One man asked Trudeau’s views on a former TRU professor David Scheffel who had been jailed in Slovakia since November for being accused of child pornography, sexual violence and arms trafficking offences.

“I was surprised to learn about that situation,” he said. “One of the challenges is (Scheffel) is actually a Dutch citizen, not a Canadian citizen so we are limited in our ability to recognize, engage in consulate support.”

Trudeau reassured the crowd that the government is working closely with the Dutch authorities to make sure that Scheffel is getting the support that he can from Canada.

A large portion of the crowd were young people or students from TRU including third-year political science and economics student Karthik Kanchumarthy.

“It’s not every day we get to see someone in power, he runs the country so to see him in in front of me is personally a great sense of satisfaction,” Kanchumarthy said. “Town halls are a great place for the public to come out and ask questions.”

— With files from the Canadian Press


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