Ottawa Citizen

I’m a tar­get, Brazeau claims

Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage the rea­son: se­na­tor

- JOR­DAN PRESS

When Sen. Pa­trick Brazeau was turned away this week from a meet­ing with a First Na­tions chief who is on a much- pub­li­cized hunger strike, it was the lat­est pub­lic re­la­tions fail­ure in a gaffe­prone year for the young politi­cian.

Last March, Justin Trudeau TKO’d the Con­ser­va­tive se­na­tor dur­ing a char­ity box­ing match af­ter Brazeau had bragged he would knock out the Lib­eral MP. Then Brazeau over­stepped him­self on Twit­ter, us­ing a swear word to de­scribe a fe­male re­porter and prompt­ing him to tem­po­rar­ily shut his Twit­ter ac­count. That was af­ter rev­e­la­tions he had the worst at­ten­dance record in the Se­nate. Brazeau also lashed out at an­other re­porter for a story about sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions. Next, his Se­nate hous­ing al­lowance came un­der fire.

Then, the lat­est blow: A few days ago, Chief Theresa Spence re­fused to meet with him — even though Brazeau him­self is an abo­rig­i­nal Cana­dian, from the Kit­i­gan Zibi First Na­tion in Que­bec.

Yet Brazeau, 38, ap­pears un­daunted by crit­i­cism, even able to laugh at him­self. He cracked jokes at his own ex­pense at the an­nual par­lia­men­tary press gallery din­ner in Novem­ber, and ear­lier this month played the vil­lain in a com­edy sketch on CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Min­utes.

He sug­gests there’s an el­e­ment of racism in the barbs some­times di­rected his way.

“I hate to say this — per­haps (it’s) the fact that I’m also abo­rig­i­nal,” Brazeau told Post­media News. “Peo­ple don’t like the fact that we have abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in the Se­nate that have a pretty pow­er­ful voice or can have a pretty pow­er­ful voice at times.”

“I’ve al­ways known I was go­ing to be the tar­get. That’s fine,” said Brazeau, who by law can re­main in the Se­nate un­til 2049. “Peo­ple who know me know that I’m a very kind and car­ing per­son.”

Brazeau has come un­der fire from abo­rig­i­nals frus­trated with the government’s changes to en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments and to the In­dian Act, un­der Bill C-45, the fed­eral bud­get bill. He be­lieves abo­rig­i­nal op­po­si­tion to C-45 is based on “mis­in­for­ma­tion” and “fear­mon­ger­ing,” and that the bill makes only “red tape pro­ce­dural” changes.

“First Na­tions ci­ti­zens that I have asked if they are aware of ex­actly what (C-45) means, they really can’t for­mu­late a jus­ti­fi­able re­sponse ex­cept to say they op­pose it be­cause it goes against abo­rig­i­nal and treaty rights, which is not the case,” Brazeau said.

“It’s the right of First Na­tions peo­ple to protest to try and gar­ner the at­ten­tion of gov­ern­ments, but I’m not sure if this spe­cific bill is the hill to do it on.”

As to his own bad year, “I’ve never hid­den the fact I did go through some per­sonal is­sues this year and my blood just boiled at one point and I prob­a­bly made my big­gest po­lit­i­cal mis­take since I’ve been in­volved in both abo­rig­i­nal and main­stream pol­i­tics,” he said, re­fer­ring to his Twit­ter out­bursts. His ac­count has been rel­a­tively clean since he re­joined the so­cial me­dia plat­form.

In the mean­time, his own party has ad­mon­ished him pub­licly for his poor at­ten­dance record and asked for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether he mis­used more than $20,000 in a hous­ing al­lowance.

Brazeau made his case be­fore the spe­cial Se­nate com­mit­tee con­duct­ing the probe on Dec. 12 in a closed-door ses­sion. Nei­ther he nor the Se­nate will dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that has been widened to in­clude the en­tire Se­nate, but Brazeau main­tains he has done noth­ing wrong.

“Ev­ery­thing neg­a­tive that has been said about me since my ap­point­ment has never been proven,” Brazeau said.

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