Innu Nation ‘disturbed and disappointed’ by minister’s remarks, says grand chief

Remarks left on a voice message by a Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet minister that one staffer describes as “very racist” was a shock for Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich.

“We were very surprised and disturbed and disappointed,” Rich said, upon the release of a voicemail left by Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper.

Trimper had called Innu Nation executive assistant Dominic Rich’s phone number, leaving a voicemail in relation to questions about translator services for motor vehicle registration.

The call didn’t hang up, and an exchange between Trimper and an unidentified woman was also recorded.

What did Perry Trimper and a colleague say? Hear the recording: 

Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper accidentally left a voicemail on a member of the Innu Nation’s voicemail. 5:01

That recorded conversation was posted by the Innu Nation on Thursday.

In it, the woman says “they have a feeling of entitlement.” Trimper says, “the race card comes up all the time.”

“Man, don’t play that on me. I’ve been 32 years working with you guys, don’t play that on me,” he says in the recording.

Trimper apologized on air for the remarks during CBC’s Here & Now.

“Regardless if it was recorded or not, I shouldn’t have said it,” he told CBC on Thursday after apologizing.

Chief Rich, meanwhile, said the Innu Nation is still reeling.

“We were very shocked and today we are still talking about it, and we were wondering why would Minister Trimper say these kinds of things to the Innu people,” Rich said.

“Basically it’s a racial remark to the Innu people, and we’ve been working with Minister Trimper for many years and we don’t understand why he would make comments toward Innu people like that.”

Trimper is the MHA for the Lake Melville district and was just reappointed to the environment portfolio in N.L. Premier Dwight Ball’s latest cabinet shuffle. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Trimper did call Rich on Thursday night to apologize over the phone. But when asked by Rich, wouldn’t identify the unidentified woman on the recording.

“He said he was very sorry for what he said on the voicemail where he was recorded, and that’s not him,” Rich said.

The Innu Nation will be meeting later on Friday to discuss what they plan to do about it, he said.

“We’re going to draft a strongly worded letter to the premier and at the same time we’ll talk internally of what we need to do, because this is a very serious issue, when this kind of comment is coming from [a member of] the government, like Minister Trimper,” Rich said.

Lake Melville MHA and cabinet minister Perry Trimper apologized live on Here & Now Thursday after a voicemail was leaked 6:23

“It also makes me wonder what’s being said behind closed doors.”

On Thursday, Premier Dwight Ball sent out a statement, saying he had spoken to Chief Rich to apologize for what happened.

“In no way does Minister Trimper’s comments reflect the views of Premier Ball, or that of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Government values the relationship with the Innu Nation and holds the Innu Nation in the highest respect,” the premier said in a statement.

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