National Post (National Edition)

Indigenous leaders slam `racist' government



WINNIPEG • Several Indigenous leaders are calling on Manitoba's Progressiv­e Conservati­ve government to either overhaul its approach to First Nations issues or resign.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinow­i Okimakanak, which represents 26 northern First Nations, stood alongside others on the steps of the legislatur­e Monday as fallout continued from Premier Brian Pallister's remarks about Canadian history.

“Today, we are not here to topple any statues. We are here to topple a government that is racist, a government that has no place in this legislatur­e,” Settee said.

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said he is tired of dealing with Pallister.

“I give him every opportunit­y to have meaningful dialogue. We bring forward meaningful solutions ... but he'd rather talk at me,” Dumas said.

The premier's office did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

Pallister has faced growing discontent over remarks he made earlier this month after protesters tore down two statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on the legislatur­e grounds.

Pallister said destructio­n is not the way forward. He said people who came to Canada did not come to destroy anything but rather to build communitie­s, churches and businesses.

The remarks were widely condemned as downplayin­g the harmful effects of colonialis­m, although Pallister said afterward he never used the word colonialis­m and was trying to appeal for people to work together.

Pallister's Indigenous relations minister quit her cabinet post two days later and her replacemen­t, Alan Lagimodier­e, stirred up more anger by defending some of the intent behind residentia­l schools.

That prompted two Indigenous men to resign from provincial economic developmen­t boards. One, former deputy minister and treaty commission­er Jamie Wilson, said he could not support the government rewriting history.

Some of Pallister's caucus members have also made their thoughts known.

Conservati­on and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard, Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Tory backbenche­r Shannon Martin posted separate social media messages last week that said residentia­l schools were designed to eliminate Indigenous culture.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs Organizati­on, which represents 34 First Nations communitie­s, said Monday the Pallister government has failed to address key issues such as lower Indigenous graduation rates, shorter lifespans, high rates of apprehensi­on in the child welfare system, and a lack of recognitio­n of treaty rights.

“If Pallister can't lead, and his cabinet can't lead, they do need to resign,” he said.

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