Friends of Clayoquot Sound campaigner Jeh Custerra greets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outside a restaurant in Tofino. Custerra said he held up one finger to represent “One earth, one chance.” (Photo - Friends of Clayoquot Sound)

Environmental group hopes latest Tofino vacation inspires change in Justin Trudeau

“How can we hold him accountable?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Easter weekend with his family in Tofino.

“It’s a really cool spot that he loves coming back to,” Tourism Tofino chair JJ Belanger told the Westerly News. “He loves to surf and he loves the quiet and the solitude that he gets here. Sure, there’s always going to be a few people that are rumbling about it, that’s their choice. But, I think, when he comes here, he enjoys it and that’s what not only keeps him coming back, it’s what keeps all of our guests coming back.”

READ MORE: Tourism Tofino says town’s visitation generates $240 million annually

Belanger said the Prime Minister is “one of the 599,000 guests that enjoys coming to Tofino annually” and that Tofino is well-accustomed to hosting public figures, like politicians and celebrities, graciously.

“I think our community does a really good job of letting them enjoy their vacation and that’s something that makes Tofino a very special place for people,” he said.

“They have a job to do, as do you and as do I. When I go away on vacation, I don’t want to think about my job. So, if these people come to our community and we’re constantly hounding them, this is not going to be a place that they want to come back to. Obviously we do a good job at that, because [Trudeau] does keep coming back and he invests, as every other tourist does, in our community. He stays where he’s staying and he uses the products and services that we have while he’s here. He’s just like any other guest and I don’t think we should treat him any differently…When he’s on vacation, nobody should be talking about his job. Let him enjoy his vacation.”

Prior to a publicized visit to the West Coast last July, Tofino-based environmental group Friends of Clayoquot Sound released a statement encouraging businesses to deny service to the Prime Minister due, in part, to the government’s Trans Mountain Pipeline purchase.

“Be bold and creative, it is not often we have the potential to reach a politician whose decisions impact our lives,” the statement read.

READ MORE: Liberal government to buy Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5B

Friends of Clayoquot Sound campaigner Jeh Custerra told the Westerly News that he had heard Trudeau was returning to Tofino over the weekend and hoped for an opportunity “to hold him accountable.”

“How can we hold him accountable? Because this is someone who has the opportunity to influence not only Canada, but the world,” he said.

Custerra had attended the 35th anniversary celebration of the Meares Island Tribal Park declaration on April 21 and said he ran into the Prime Minister outside a local restaurant after the ceremony.

“I stuck around and ended up talking to him before and after his dinner…On our first interaction, I told him we have one earth and that the water, climate and land need to be protected. ‘Remember why you’re here Justin,’ is what I said,” he said.

Custera again voiced frustration over the Trans Mountain pipeline decision and also expressed concerns over the Trudeau government’s absence of charges against mining company Imperial Metals regarding the 2014 Mount Polley disaster.

READ MORE: 3 engineers to face disciplinary hearings in Mount Polley disaster

“He needs to refocus his priorities on phasing out tar sands and investing in green jobs, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transit, not buying pipelines and letting corporate polluters off the hook,” Custerra said. “The [United Nations] is saying we have 12 years to change humanity’s relationship with energy production…This is his opportunity and this can’t be an opportunity lost. This has to be an opportunity found.”

He added that he hopes Trudeau got the message during his latest West Coast vacation.

“Our hope is that our words remind him of his opportunity to lead and have a positive impact through his leadership in relation to some of the most fundamental issues to humanity’s future, including climate change and including environmental sustainability,” Custerra said noting Trudeau was visiting while the West Coast was celebrating the anniversary of the Meares Island Tribal Park declaration.

“He’s here on this very significant weekend that protected the territory that he’s here enjoying and being inspired by,” he said. “When the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation prevented clear-cut logging on Meares Island, they safeguarded clean water and healthy habitat for everyone who lives in and visits Tofino.”

READ MORE: Rumoured Justin Trudeau vacation sparks contention in Tofino

READ MORE: WATCH: Pipeline protest outside Justin Trudeau’s Tofino vacation rental

READ MORE: Behest of the West: Strength shown during Prime Minister’s meetings in Tofino



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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