Gov­er­nor Gen­eral eats his words

David John­ston apol­o­gizes af­ter com­ment on CBC Ra­dio

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Ottawa -

Gov. Gen. David John­ston apol­o­gized pub­licly Mon­day for re­fer­ring to Indige­nous peo­ples as im­mi­grants as he be­stowed hon­ours on 29 peo­ple — in­clud­ing the front­man of the Trag­i­cally Hip — for their ef­forts in fur­ther­ing Indige­nous causes.

John­ston told the in­vesti­ture cer­e­mony he mis­spoke when he said dur­ing a CBC Ra­dio in­ter­view aired Satur­day that the roots of Cana­dian im­mi­gra­tion ex­tend all the way back to in­clude Indige­nous Peo­ples.

The com­ments, aired on CBC’S pol­i­tics pro­gram “The House,’’ touched off a flurry of crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia, where some lis­ten­ers com­plained that John­ston’s re­marks re­flected a deepseated colo­nial men­tal­ity.

“Let me apol­o­gize for not ex­press­ing my­self cor­rectly on this mat­ter re­cently,’’ John­ston told Mon­day’s gath­er­ing, which fol­lowed an apolo­getic tweet of his own ear­lier in the day.

“Indige­nous Peo­ples are the orig­i­nal peo­ples of this land.’’

The Gov­er­nor Gen­eral pref­aced his apol­ogy by say­ing all of Canada’s in­hab­i­tants should be en­cour­aged to cre­ate a bet­ter Canada.

“The bet­ter coun­try we de­sire is, above all, a more in­clu­sive one that sup­ports, en­cour­ages and ac­knowl­edges the con­tri­bu­tions of all peo­ples, in­clud­ing Indige­nous peo­ples.’’

John­ston was pre­sid­ing over a cer­e­mony in which Gord Downie and 28 oth­ers were hon­oured for their work in rais­ing aware­ness of Indige­nous is­sues.

Downie, wear­ing his trade­mark feath­ered hat and weath­ered denim jacket, stum­bled slightly and then em­braced John­ston be­fore be­ing in­ducted as a mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada at the Rideau Hall cer­e­mony.

The singer and so­cial ac­tivist, di­ag­nosed last year with an in­cur­able form of brain can­cer, was be­ing rec­og­nized for his ef­forts to bring at­ten­tion to the his­tory of res­i­den­tial schools and to ad­vance the cause of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau was among the dig­ni­taries in at­ten­dance and ap­plauded as Indige­nous ac­tivist Sylvia Mar­a­cle was named an of­fi­cer of the or­der.

Jac­que­line Guest, a staunch lit­er­acy ad­vo­cate with Métis roots, was in­ducted as a mem­ber of the or­der while oth­ers re­ceived hon­ours in­clud­ing the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Decoration, the Po­lar Medal and the Sov­er­eign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers.

They in­cluded Inuit NHL player Jordin Tootoo, Jar­ret Lea­man, an ad­vo­cate for Indige­nous LGBTQ youth and ac­tress and for­mer Lib­eral MP Tina Keeper.

Downie’s band­mates — Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Lan­glois and Gord Sin­clair — have also been named to the Or­der of Canada and are to re­ceive their ci­ta­tions at a later date.

Prior to Mon­day’s cer­e­mony, John­ston is­sued a state­ment on Twit­ter, re­fer­ring to his week­end com­ments as a “mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.’’

But the mes­sage ap­peared to fur­ther ir­ri­tate some who sug­gested it in­voked a sense of own­er­ship over peo­ple when John­ston said “Our Indige­nous Peo­ples are not im­mi­grants. They are the orig­i­nal peo­ples of this land.’’

“We are not your chat­tels like the drapes at Rideau Hall,’’ wrote one re­spon­dent.

Still another stated “We do NOT be­long to you!’’

In clos­ing the Rideau Hall cer­e­mony, ac­tor and past Or­der of Canada re­cip­i­ent Tom Jackson is­sued an im­pas­sioned plea to those in at­ten­dance to help cre­ate “a bet­ter Canada,’’ say­ing Cana­di­ans are one big fam­ily, no mat­ter their ori­gin or colour.

indige­nous peo­ples are the orig­i­nal peo­ples

of this land. Gov. Gen. david John­ston

Adrian WYLD/THE Cana­dian PRESS

Gov. Gen. David John­ston presents hockey player Jordin Tootoo with the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal dur­ing a cer­e­mony at Rideau Hall on Mon­day.

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