'What's done is done': Ball, Innu Nation on same page after Trimper voicemail comments

The province and Innu Nation say they're on the same page after inking a joint one-page statement addressing institutional racism within the Newfoundland and Labrador government. 

Premier Dwight Ball and Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich emerged from Monday's private meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay after several hours.

The two leaders discussed the best way to move forward after a former cabinet minister unknowingly left what Rich calls racist comments on the voicemail of Domenic Rich, the organization's executive assistant. 

While MHA for Lake Melville Perry Trimper resigned from cabinet the day following his apology to Rich and Innu Nation, he still has a seat within the Liberal caucus at the House of Assembly. 

Ball confirmed after Monday's meeting that the MHA will retain his seat, despite the Innu Nation expressing interest last week in having Trimper removed completely.

"We acknowledge what Trimper told me, and what's done is done," Rich told CBC News after the meeting.

"We have to move forward ... If you are on the same spot for a long time it's going to be more damaging. We have to remember that there are young people out there that we have to look after."

Donna Paddon/Innu Nation

The Innu leadership proposed the formation of a long-term working group to address their concerns, according to the joint statement.  

That statement said the group will "develop concrete measures to ensure elected officials and government employees have an understanding and appreciation of Innu culture, values and history."

"This will come down to cultural sensitivity training for sure," Ball told CBC News, which will cover the whole of government. 

"This approach on racism and cultural sensitivity training will have to occur. It cannot be tolerated and we will demand that the services that are delivered by government will be done in a very respectful way."

Second voice still a mystery

Rich said the identity of the second voice on Trimper's voicemail is still unknown, and it was brought up during Monday's meeting. 

Rich added that Innu Nation cannot negotiate with the province over public services in Labrador while this person still goes unidentified.

Ball said he still doesn't know who it is either, but confirmed that the woman's voice on the tape is not of someone in a decision-making position within government.  

"Right now it could be someone in government, but not at the executive, the manager's or deputy minister's role, or someone that would be making decisions around policy," he said.

"I spoke with Perry this morning, we need to find out who this is."

Land claims

More to come out of Monday's meeting is the premier's commitment to "expedite land claims and self-governance negotiations" for Innu Nation. 

In early September Innu Nation was critical of the NunatuKavut Community Council, which represents about 6,000 Inuit in southern and central Labrador, for having the opportunity to sign a land claim agreement with the federal government.

At the time Rich expressed concern that Innu Nation had been negotiating its own land claims for over four decades.

"The conclusion of this agreement will be a key step toward reconciliation and the recognition of and respect for Innu rights," Monday's joint statement said. 

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