Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says if combatting racism is so important to the Liberals, then why is Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper still in their caucus?
Evans asked the first question of the only question period at the House of Assembly this week, after Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne was scrutinized for his comments last week.
Central to Byrne’s defence of himself were claims that NDP MHA Jim Dinn had marginalized Indigenous voices repeatedly and not done enough to denounce racism against Indigenous peoples.
“If racism is truly an important issue to this government, I ask the premier to show leadership and remove him from the Liberal caucus.” — Lela Evans, Torngat Mountains MHA
“Why wasn't racism raised last month when the former minister and member of Lake Melville had to step down as a result of racially charged comments directed at the Innu Nation and their request for translation services?” asked Evans.
“If racism is truly an important issue to this government, I ask the premier to show leadership and remove him from the Liberal caucus.”
Premier Dwight Ball says racism is not tolerated in society.
"I met with the Innu leadership on many occasions. (Trimper) has apologized for what's happened. He was removed from cabinet. And the Innu leadership then, we put in place a working group that we know will take quite some time,” said Ball.
“I think all of us really do not want to politicize this. I've offered (Wednesday) that we open up this very chamber so that (Indigenous) leaders could actually come inside of this chamber and stand at the bar and talk to all of us decision-makers about racism and how we could deal with it. Let them have their say. They deserve that. That's a suggestion that I put out there just yesterday.”
In a news release on Wednesday, Chief Mi’Sel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation said he would be willing to come to the House of Assembly to address issues of racism in this province, particularly against Indigenous people.
On Thursday, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie also called for a public forum on racism in the province.
Crosbie called for Indigenous leaders as well as representatives of visible minority communities to be present “so that they can tell their own stories, in their own words, of their experiences of racism and their proposals for change.”
On Wednesday, Trimper stood amid the debate around Byrne to detail how events unfolded when his comments were made public in September.
Trimper recounted the moment he realized the call had become public knowledge.
“It was with an amazing fall into an abyss on the 12th of September when a reporter called me and played back my words from a conversation that I had had the day before. In the fog of realizing, wow, what have I just done? What have I just said? What mistake have I just made? I thank myself, I guess I'm glad at the time that I had the basis, the clarity of thought to say I'm not going to make any more mistakes,” he said.
Trimper said he was in the premier’s boardroom on another matter when the call came, and he informed Ball of what had happened.
“I said there cannot be any qualification of this. There cannot be any explanation, it's a setback for yours truly and I need to deal with it. He said, go. So I went, I went to the studio, on television live. I can tell you when Mr. Germain was about to interview me, I felt I was being strapped into an electric chair, but I knew I needed to do that. I needed to do it for myself, for my wife, for the people around me. I'm glad I did that,” said Trimper.
“I can tell you I was mad at myself because I knew what those words would mean to certain folks, particularly within the Innu Nation, that I had been working closely with so much of my life. I still wonder in my mind, why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why did I lose control in that instant? It wasn't about being recorded. It was about saying it.”
Trimper says there needs to be a firm commitment to making this province more tolerant.
“I keep saying to myself, why did this happen to myself?” he said.
“I can only feel it's to help me refocus and double down my efforts to do what I can to address the challenges of embracing everyone in this province, in this country, into society where they need to be in a very respectful place.”