Premier's office disputes 'racist' night-hunting comments attributed to Pallister in Maclean's

Maclean's magazine is standing by its reporting after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister denied making inflammatory comments about Indigenous hunters.

Magazine stands by its reporting of comments made by premier at his Costa Rica vacation home

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister's office is disputing comments attributed to him about Indigenous hunters in Maclean's magazine. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Maclean's magazine is standing by its reporting after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister denied making inflammatory comments about Indigenous hunters.

Earlier this month, Maclean's associate editor Nancy Macdonald visited the Manitoba premier at his property in Costa Rica.

In an interview, Macdonald asked Pallister about the "race war" comments he made to a group of municipal politicians in Virden on Jan. 16. 

By the time those comments were reported, on Jan. 19, the premier had left for Costa Rica and wasn't available to speak to media.

Pallister first addressed his "race war" comments in a story published by Maclean's on Jan. 26.

Maclean's magazine is standing by its reporting after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister denied making inflammatory comments about Indigenous hunters. 1:41

"Young Indigenous men — a preponderance of them are offenders, with criminal records — are going off shooting guns in the middle of the night. It doesn't make sense," Pallister was quoted as saying in Maclean's.

Reaction from opposition parties and Indigenous leaders was swift, many calling the premier's comments '"racist."

The premier's office said Monday it is disputing the Maclean's account.

"I'm sure you can appreciate the unusual nature of this whole situation," Pallister communications director Olivia Baldwin-Valainis said in a statement.

​"Unannounced, without staff and therefore no tape on our end and with no response from Maclean's on audio or written notes. We took the time over the weekend in an attempt to engage directly with them on these points."

Baldwin-Valainis said her office repeatedly asked Maclean's for Macdonald's notes and a recording of the conversation.

Maclean's associate editor Nancy Macdonald visited Pallister in Costa Rica. The premier's office now disputes her account of their conversation.
In an interview, Macdonald said while it is not her magazine's policy to provide a reporter's notes with interview sources, Pallister's office only asked for a recording, which does not exist.

She said she did not expect to be invited in to meet Pallister and now believes the premier's office is attempting to discredit her, rather than address the premier's comments.

"If I'd been misquoted or someone said something wrong about me, I would immediately correct the record. I would have expected his office to do that immediately on Thursday. Instead, they waited five days," the former Winnipegger said in an interview from Vancouver.

"Rather than going out and speaking with the people who he's hurt, he's just going to deny this ever happened. It's not something I would do, but this is what he's chosen to do."

Macdonald said she's never flown outside the country before to attempt to get an answer from a politician and suggested Pallister ought to be accountable to the media for his "race war" comments. 

"He's the one trying to govern 6,000 kilometres away from Manitoba," Macdonald said, suggesting his staff ought to ensure the premier is better prepared to work away from home. "I don't know why he wasn't recording."

Baldwin-Valainis said Pallister will address media on Tuesday.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.