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Mi'kmaq Chief wants an apology from BC Premier Campbell

Mi'kmaq Chief Misel Joe said the children in his community need an apology from British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell after an invitation to sing at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver was rescinded.

“There's no shame in making a mistake, even for a premier,” Joe said.

Two years ago Campbell heard the Se't A'newey First Nation Choir, which is based in Conne River, Newfoundland, sing at the National Aboriginal Women's Summit in Corner Brook. Campbell, according to various reports, was so impressed by the choir that he invited them to sing at the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

There was never an official invitation, but the children in the choir and the people in the community took Campbell seriously, said Joe. “You don't make those kinds of promises to children and not have them take you serious.”

Then this week, four months before the Games, Joe learned through Newfoundland officials that despite Campbell's invitation, the choir was not welcome to sing at the opening ceremonies.

“He had no authority to make that promise or invitation,” said Joe. It's up to Olympic officials, not the premier, who sings at the Games, he said. The message was clear that Campbell's promise was worthless, he said.

Campbell was returning today from Greece, where he attended a ceremony to light the Olympic torch, and was unavailable for comment.

A spokesperson in Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams' office said Williams was campaigning in a by-election and was unavailable. Questions on the matter should go to VANOC, the committee organizing the Winter Games, she said.

VANOC media officials did not respond to queries by posting time.

CBC Newfoundland quoted choir member Shannon Jo Hinks, a grade 12 student, saying she and other choir members had been preparing traditional songs and clothes for the performance. Choir members couldn't believe the performance was canceled, she said. "I was really, really upset," she said. "A lot of us … just looked at each other and we're like, 'What, we're not going now? Why would they do that to us?' "

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

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