WINNIPEG – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced some anger over indigenous issues and oil pipeline development during a town-hall meeting Thursday in Winnipeg.
Small groups of protesters scattered throughout the crowd of about 1,200 people held up anti-pipeline signs and shouted “Keep it in the ground.”
Another protester, seated directly behind the prime minister, held up a sign that read “Water is sacred.”
As a handful of demonstrators challenged him, Trudeau asked for permission to continue and answer people’s questions.
“I know you have a voice. I’ve just heard it,” he said.
“I’m asking you can I have permission to continue in my town hall with Canadians who came out to meet with their prime minister?”
Most in the crowd applauded strongly when Trudeau asked the protesters to let him speak.
There were questions about poor housing conditions on reserves, boil-water advisories and high rates of kids in the child welfare system.
Winnipeg is home to Canada’s largest urban aboriginal population.
Trudeau admitted his government has much more work to do.
“I have talked about the fact that Canada has failed … in a fundamental relationship that we were supposed to get right,” he said.
“We’re not moving as fast as I’d like on that path. I absolutely agree. But it’s a difficult path to walk. There are decades of wrongs to undo.”
Earlier in the day, Trudeau was greeted by protesters shouting “Water is life” as he walked through the University of Regina to meet students. Trudeau replied that he agreed and continued to make his way down a long corridor packed with students trying to squeeze in a selfie with him.
There were also people carrying placards that said “People over Pipelines.”
One man at a Regina cafe where Trudeau also stopped said: “I’ve got to give you a little credit, for you to come to these town halls and do what you’re doing, well done.”
Trudeau said he needs to hear from people who disagree with him.
He got a mostly warm reception at a Winnipeg elementary school where he stopped before making his way to the town hall.
A few hundred kids asked him questions about his childhood and what he likes about being prime minister.
One student asked him why did his father — former prime minister Pierre Trudeau — “give everyone in Western Canada the middle finger?”
“My father had an approach to politics that not everyone agreed with,” Trudeau replied.
“But he always thought about Canada.”
Trudeau also pointed out the student was in a school with a successful French immersion program because of the elder Trudeau’s policies.
The Winnipeg town hall was Trudeau’s 10th such meeting in recent weeks.