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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A Fort St. John resident that made national headlines for supposedly “berating” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an event on Parliament Hill says that she disagrees with the headline, and that she was trying to make him aware of what she feels is a discrepancy between his words and the actions of his government.

Connie Greyeyes was in Ottawa on Wednesday for the sixth year in a row to participate in a vigil on Parliament Hill that is put on by Families of Sisters in Spirit. The vigil is held every year on October 4th to honour the memory of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.

Greyeyes said that Prime Minister Trudeau has attended the vigil every year since being elected Prime Minister, and many more politicians have attended the vigil in recent year. Because of this, Greyeyes said she felt that Wednesday presented an opportunity to make those politicians aware of a number of issues.

“A lot of people had high hopes when he was elected. But his government still continues to fight indigenous people in court for lands, treaty rights, education, health, basic things like drinking water on reserves. So I think it was a really good opportunity and platform to call him out on that. I don’t feel like I berated him, I feel like calling him out on things that they’re doing is a right that we have. That ‘you’re these things but you don’t mean them.’ It’s not enough to just say ‘I care about it,’ you actually have to have the actions behind it.”

Greyeyes pointed out a story by the CBC of the federal government spending over $110,000 in court to fight a First Nations teen in Calgary seeking to have a $6,000 orthodontic treatment covered by the First Nations and Inuit health benefit program as an example of some of the government’s actions.

Another area that Greyeyes had a concern about was the inquiry itself, Greyeyes added that she wasn’t the only member of the vigil that spoke against the actions of Trudeau’s government, and that commissioners of the federal inquiry in missing and murdered aboriginal women were also getting called out for perceived failings.

Greyeyes explained that she felt that the inquiry was “doomed to fail” from the start.

“I think because it comes from that colonialist and paternalist view. Theres so much red tape that they’ve got to go through, their hands were tied. A lot of families believed that when the inquiry was unveiled and the terms of reference came that they were going to have cases reopened and things like that. That didn’t happen, and its disappointing to them. Thats not saying that all families are against the inquiry, but a lot of families were really hoping the cases would be opened and the police conduct would be looked at. That’s not going to be the case, and that’s what we mean by it was doomed to fail.”

Greyeyes explained that in the past, Trudeau has come to the vigil and spoken briefly before immediately returning to the parliament buildings. She added that this year, Trudeau did stay at the vigil longer than he has in years past. The Prime Minister sent a tweet roughly 90 minutes after attending the vigil, saying that his government had failed indigenous women and girls, and promising to do better.


With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press:

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