Justin Trudeau, lured by selfie request, caught off guard by Indigenous rights question

Photo from Facebook
Photo from Facebook

As Justin Trudeau makes his way across Canada on a campaign-style tour, he’s been bombarded with a flurry of questions about everything from the oilsands to his hair products. But there was one question at a recent tour stop he definitely wasn’t prepared for.

Two students from Dalhousie University took the opportunity at a Halifax coffee-shop tour stop to ask the prime minister a tough question about Indigenous rights, CTV News reports.

Alex Ayton and Kathleen Olds initially requested a selfie with Trudeau, who gladly obliged. Once the prime minister leaned into the photo, one of the students casually asked about his promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau’s camera-ready smile quickly turned into shock as he backed away from the camera and the questioning women. He then said, “absolutely, yes, for sure” continuing to distance himself.

One of the students fired back with a follow-up question: “Does that mean requiring consent for natural resource projects?”

Trudeau responded briefly with “Absolutely, we need to engage with a broad range of voices. And, as we’ve seen, the Indigenous communities have positions on both sides of just about every different project.”

The UN declaration would ensure that the government took First Nations, Metis and Inuit voices into account when making any decision that would affect their land.

Trudeau made a promise to, essentially, turn the declaration into law when he addressed the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in 2015, saying “We will work with you to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Mandate letters for cabinet ministers sworn in after the October 2015 election even embraced Indigenous rights, stating “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.”

However, at the 37th AFN assembly the following year, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation in B.C., backtracked on the government’s promise when she said adopting the declaration into Canadian law was “unworkable,” calling it “a political distraction to undertaking the hard work actually required to implement it back home in communities.”

The video of Trudeau, which has since gone viral, was posted by Dal Divest, a collective of students working towards the divestment of university “holdings in industries and projects that extract, process, market, or explore for coal, petroleum or natural gas resources.”