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Campbell apologizes for misunderstanding with choir, can't help

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said he's sorry for the misunderstanding that led a Mi'kmaq children's choir to believe they'd been invited to perform at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, but there's nothing he can do about it now.

“I think it's really unfortunate if there was a misunderstanding,” he said. “I did say to the choir, 'You know, wouldn't it be great if you could be at the Olympics.'”

He did not, however, invite them to perform at the opening ceremonies, he said. “I sure am sorry if there was any misunderstanding. There certainly wasn't meant to be any.”

Campbell heard the Se't A'newey First Nation Choir, which is based in Conne River, Newfoundland, sing two years ago at the National Aboriginal Women's Summit in Corner Brook. Campbell was so impressed he invited the choir to sing at the Games, according to various accounts.

The 15-member, four-drummer choir learned last week it had been “uninvited” to the Games after spending the last two years preparing for the trip and performance. Joe told the Tyee Campbell should apologize to the choir.

The B.C. government came up with options where the choir could perform, including at an aboriginal showcase, but this morning, following a community meeting, Miawpukek First Nation Chief Saqamaw Misel Joe sent Campbell a letter saying the choir would only perform at the opening.

Asked about the response, Campbell said, “I think it's a shame because the Olympics is more than the opening ceremonies.”

The ceremonies are organized by VANOC. Campbell said he has not been in touch with VANOC about the choir, and it wouldn't be appropriate for him to contact the organization about the issue.

A media contact for VANOC took questions about the issue, but did not provide a response by posting time.

Update, 5:35 p.m.: VANOC's executive vice-president of celebrations and partnerships, David Guscott, released a statement saying the "concept for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies is now complete and execution of that concept has begun." Performing at the Aboriginal Pavilion, Atlantic Canada Pavilion or B.C. Pavilion would expose the choir to thousands of visitors, he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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