By Terry Pedwell
THE CANADIAN PRESS
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 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 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 Downie and 28 others were honoured for their work in raising awareness of indigenous issues. Downie was 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 also named an officer of the order.
Downie’s band mates, Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langois and Gord Sinclair, have also been named to the order and are to receive their citations at a later date.