Manitoba First Nations demand apology for racist comments
Manitoba's aboriginal leaders are outraged with provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister over his refusal to publicly condemn racist comments made by a party member.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has already cancelled a meeting with Pallister in the wake of comments by Braydon Mazurkiewich, who was president of the PC Party's youth wing.
Nepinak is calling on Pallister to give a full public apology to Manitoba's First Nations citizens, after Mazurkiewich called aboriginal people "freeloading Indians" on Facebook on Friday.
At the time, Mazurkiewich was responding to a Federal Court ruling that favoured First Nations regarding the future of Kapyong Barracks, a former Canadian Forces site in Winnipeg.
"That was built for hardworking men and women of the military, not freeloading Indians," Mazurkiewich posted on his Facebook page.
Just hours later, Mazurkiewich resigned as the youth wing president. However, he remains a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, spokesman Mike Brown confirmed to CBC News on Tuesday.
Nepinak says he believes Mazurkiewich's resignation from the party executive was simply an exercise in political correctness, so he wants Pallister to take a strong stand against the comments.
"This racist reaction that he has caused requires immediate treatment," Nepinak wrote in a letter to Pallister's office. "A real solution cannot be superficial or merely reactionary.
"In light of this, I have instructed my staff to cancel a meeting scheduled tomorrow with you and your office.
"This gesture, however, is not intended to paint the entirety of the Progressive Conservative Party with one brush but rather to put your party on notice that a full public apology is expected to First Nations citizens of Manitoba."
Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson and some aboriginal veterans groups are also urging Pallister to speak out against Mazurkiewich's comments.
As well, the Southern Chiefs Organization has written to Pallister, demanding a public apology.
"Your silence on this appalling display of hatred reflects negatively on your entire party membership and Conservative members of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba," SCO Grand Chief Murray Clearsky wrote in his letter to the Tory leader.
Issue is dealt with, says party
Pallister has not responded to a request for an interview. Brown said the issue is behind them, noting that Mazurkiewich's comments are strictly his own.
"This was dealt with by the party president and was a party issue. If this had been a caucus member Pallister would have stepped forward to deal with it," Brown wrote in an email.
"Because it was a party matter the party president dealt with it."
Brown also added that Nepinak seemed OK with that. The Tories cited comments the grand chief made shortly after Mazurkiewich submitted his resignation.
"The Grand Chief had commented in a Canadian Press story saying he applauded the Tories for their swift action," the party stated in a release Tuesday afternoon.
"We understand the grand chief has other commitments and look forward to meeting with him in the new year."