Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a grilling from students at a Saskatoon high school – and came away with a sweet new guitar.
In a visit to Oskayak High School, the prime minister toured a workshop where students design and build custom guitars. It’s part of a class that teaches both the hands-on side of guitar-building, as well as business skills around marketing and selling the instruments.
Following the tour, Trudeau gave a speech in the school gym before taking three questions from reporters.
From there, he opened up the floor to students, telling them their input would help him do his job, both as prime minister and minister for youth.
Oskayak is an indigenous high school, and students’ questions centered mainly on aboriginal issues.
The students erupted into applause after one Grade 12 student, Tahris Bear, read a pointed question she’d written for Trudeau about the state of aboriginal communities:
“There have been a total of 23 elected prime ministers in Canada. Treaty 6 was signed Aug. 23, 1876 at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan. How do you intend to honour the promises your ancestors made with mine, exactly written in all the signed treaties across Canada, to make up and pay for the acts of genocide our ancestors were subject to long before and after the signing of Treaty 6?
“And how do you, Justin, with all your politicians and representatives, plan to right the wrongs? The past 22 elected prime ministers have failed.
“Are we not considered Canadians as well? If we are, why do you allow the first people of this land to endure and live in Third World conditions?”
– Tahris Bear
Trudeau thanked Bear for her question, and restated his position that government needs to work alongside aboriginal communities to tackle long-running problems.
“Everything the federal government has tried to do over the past centuries, some it very well-meaning but horribly wrong in its consequences, happened to indigenous peoples. And the future that we have to build will be with indigenous peoples,” he said.
He also said there are signs attitudes in Canada are changing.
“I wouldn’t be prime minister if it wasn’t for the fact that the people who have been pushing incredibly hard to fix and renew this relationship properly include non-indigenous people across this country,” he said.
Speaking after the event ended, Bear admitted she was among the students swept up with Trudeau’s visit.
“He was definitely worth the hype — I screamed when I saw him, I was like ‘oh my God! It’s Justin Trudeau!” she said.
Saying it was an honour to be called on by the prime minister to ask a question, she said she still wasn’t satisfied with the answer she got.
“He just apologized once again for everything that happened that he has no control over. When in reality, he has partial control over what could happen. But he was just apologizing for what had happened, not telling me any actions that they were about to take to make it better,” she said.
After fielding questions for about half an hour, Trudeau participated in a prayer and smudge ceremony to close the event. As a parting gift, he was given a student-made custom guitar — with ‘Trudeau’ inlaid on the instrument’s headstock, ‘Oskayak’ engraved on the pick guard and the prime minister’s crest on the back.