Perry Trimper has again apologized and committed to regain the trust of his Lake Melville constituents, but opposition politicians and the Innu Nation say the woman in the MHA's inadvertently recorded comments also needs to be identified and held to account.
The recording, which was made last week when Trimper failed to properly hang up the phone after a conversation with an Innu Nation representative about translation services, leaves unanswered questions about the language from the other unidentified participant on the call, PC Leader Ches Crosbie said Tuesday.
"The Innu themselves, and I think the public generally, recognize there's a public interest in knowing the identity of the second person on that phone call who could be heard in some repartee with Mr. Trimper," Crosbie said.
On Thursday, the Innu Nation released a recording of a conversation Trimper had with an unidentified woman after a phone call with the group about translation rights for motor vehicle documents. In the call — accidentally left on the voicemail of Domenic Rich, the organization's executive assistant — Trimper says the Innu Nation plays "the race card." The woman also makes disparaging comments about the Innu.
Trimper apologized for the comments on Thursday, and announced his resignation from Premier Dwight Ball's cabinet on Friday, though he remains an MHA in the Liberal caucus.
He said again in a Facebook post on Tuesday that though he meant nothing malicious by his words, he knew he had made a serious mistake and would work to understand why he had made the comments and to make amends.
"I let people down last week and for that I am truly sorry," Trimper said in the post.
Ball has said the woman in the call is not an executive or policy maker in government, but declined to identify her. Trimper also declined to identify the woman when asked.
Crosbie said he finds it perplexing that Ball could confirm the unidentified woman doesn't hold an executive or policy-making position in the government, but that he also does not know the woman's name.
"Mr. Ball is the premier. He has duties to the public," he said.
"All he has to do himself is pick up the phone and call Mr. Trimper. Presumably it's no more difficult than that to find out."
Innu Nation also wants to know
Ball met with representatives of the Innu Nation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Monday, when a statement addressing institutional racism within the Newfoundland and Labrador government was signed by both parties.
Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich said after the meeting that the Innu Nation cannot negotiate with the province about public services in Labrador while the second person on the recording remains unidentified. Ball said at that time the person needed to be identified, though he reiterated that she did not have a decision-making position within government.
Demonstrators who gathered at Trimper's constituency office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Monday also wanted to know who the second person on the call is.
If the woman is someone with a government role, she should be replaced, said Kirk Lethbridge, who organized the protest. If she is not involved in the government, Lethbridge said, it raises concerns about the level of privacy for the call Trimper was having with the Innu Nation.
If the woman in conversation with Trimper on the recording is a private citizen, that may change the discussion about releasing her name or identity, Crosbie said, but doesn't end the conversation altogether.
"That raises a whole other issue," he said, "which is that, why is a private person with no government connection being privy to a phone call that has to do with Innu business?"