Johnston says sorry as criticism mounts
Indigenous Peoples not immigrants, Gov. Gen. says
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 People.
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 deep-seated 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. “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 was diagnosed last year with an incurable form of brain cancer, and was being recognized for his efforts to bring attention to the history of residential schools and to advance the cause of reconciliation.
Gord Downie receives the Order of Canada from Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa on Monday.