VICTORIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says non-Indigenous Canadians need to be patient and unconditional in their support of Indigenous communities on the road to reconciliation and allow them to make mistakes.
"We have to be patient. We have to be present. We have to be unconditional in our support in a way a parent needs to be unconditional in their love — not that there is a parent-child dynamic here," Trudeau said Thursday night at a Liberal fundraiser in Victoria.
Getting reconciliation right means allowing Indigenous communities to "make their own mistakes," he said.
"No matter how well-meaning and how many experts we draw together to say: this is the solution that's going to lift your community out of poverty, this is the solution that's going to empower you to be business people and entrepreneurs and control your land and control your future — it can't come from us."
Trudeau made the remarks at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria during an "armchair discussion" moderated by Nikki Macdonald, who was a senior adviser to former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien.
Trudeau had spent the early part of the day in Montreal at a European Union trade summit before flying across the country for an afternoon and evening event in Victoria.
He told attendees that the most powerful thing about reconciliation for him has been seeing consensus among non-Indigenous Canadians that it is time to start down a path of true respect and partnership.
He said Canadians have spent decades helping out on the world stage in areas such as poverty and human rights, while failing to see the way Canada has failed its First Peoples.
But the "heart-wrenching" level of intergenerational trauma that exists in some Indigenous communities was centuries in the making and it will take more than a few years to undo, he said. While some Indigenous communities are thriving, there continue to be stories of collective failures as a country to move forward.
"There's a tremendous impatience out there to fix this quickly. I feel it too, but we need to get this right," Trudeau said.
"There's a lot of work still to do, but what keeps me convinced that we're going to get there is continued goodwill and an emphasis on actually getting it done that I hear from non-Indigenous and Indigenous Canadians."