The Deputy Grand Chief of the Innu Nation says keeping Perry Trimper in caucus will do nothing but raise tensions between the Indigenous government and the provincial government.
Deputy Grand Chief Mary Ann Nui says Trimper remaining in the Liberal caucus could jeopardize the anti-racism working group established by the Innu Nation and provincial government to address racism against Indigenous people in the province.
“The Innu Nation created an anti-racism working group to work with the provincial government. There won’t be any working ability there, as we see it, if Perry Trimper decides to stay,” said Nui.
“If the Liberals let him stay in his seat, it’s going to create a lot of, you know, tension between Indigenous groups.”
Nui says she doesn’t understand what it takes to be removed from the Liberal caucus, if not the two occasions Trimper was made to apologize for comments he had made.
“How far do you want it to go? Why is that not enough?” she said.
“The Innu Nation created an anti-racism working group to work with the provincial government. There won’t be any working ability there, as we see it, if Perry Trimper decides to stay."
Premier Andrew Furey did not speak with reporters to address the unfolding tensions between the Innu Nation and Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper on Tuesday.
The Innu Nation issued a statement on Monday evening that followed a letter sent to the premier last Friday calling for Trimper’s removal from the Liberal caucus and Trimper’s resignation as an MHA.
The latest concerns stem from comments made by Trimper last week regarding the homeless population in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where he suggested those struggling with addictions and homelessness were “choosing” their lifestyle.
The comments come just over a year since Trimper’s last apology to constituents. In September 2019, Trimper apologized after audio released by the Innu Nation found Trimper accusing the nation of playing “the race card” in negotiations about government-provided translation services for Innu Nation members.
Nui says the Innu Nation voiced its concerns about Trimper directly to Furey on Aug. 16 in a letter and again at an in-person meeting with Furey on Aug. 26.
Nui says the repeated concerns expressed by the Innu Nation about Trimper continue to go unheard.
“The first mistake that Perry Trimper made in 2019, it didn’t go any further than (former premier) Dwight Ball gave him a second chance,” said Nui.
“We went to visit Premier Furey and we demanded very clearly that we don’t want Perry Trimper to be representing us.”
Instead of answering questions about the decision to keep Trimper in the Liberal caucus despite continued objections from the Innu Nation, the Premier’s Office issued a brief statement.
“I spoke with Innu Nation Grand Chief Etienne Rich this morning, and we agreed that we have a good dialogue we plan to maintain,” reads the statement.
“We continued a conversation about moving forward with cultural sensitivity training throughout government.”
Nui says yet another commitment to sensitivity training isn’t enough.
“It doesn’t satisfy us. I strongly believe Premier Furey should really consider moving Perry Trimper from his seat and the Liberals should step up as well and make the right decision by removing him,” said Nui.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie said Furey's refusal to answer questions about the matter on Tuesday is “a disgrace.”
“We have two things going on in Newfoundland and Labrador right now and they’re foundational to government policy and our existence as a province. One is Indigenous reconciliation: that’s crumbling,” said Crosbie.
“The second is the offshore: that’s crumbling. The premier of the province will not be accountable by coming out and fielding press questions while this is going on. That is a disgrace.”
The Telegram emailed all Liberal caucus members aside from the premier and Trimper to ask their opinion on whether Trimper should remain in their caucus. Not a single Liberal MHA replied by deadline.
Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons declined to say whether he personally believes Trimper should remain a member of the Liberal caucus.
“I think Perry has resigned his positions. I think Perry has apologized. He’s indicated he will not run again,” said Parsons.
“That’s basically my comment as to this.”
Education Minister Tom Osborne says Trimper has done enough to address the matter.
“I know Mr. Trimper was parliamentary assistant to the premier and to me. He’s removed himself from those parliamentary duties. He’s indicated he will not be running again,” said Osborne.
“As far as I’m concerned, the case is closed.”
David Maher reports on provincial politics in St. John’s.