One of Manitoba's top Indigenous leaders told delegates at a Saskatoon conference on Tuesday her province has "the most racist provincial government in Canada."
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson says that's what she told Saskatchewan First Nations leaders, who responded, "No, we do."
North Wilson's comments came during her opening remarks at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations health summit at Saskatoon's TCU Place.
She said she took offence to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister's comments about Indigenous people having chronic diseases and mental health issues when he was refusing to sign on to a national climate strategy in order to have health-care needs addressed first.
She said while the government is advocating for more money, they are not working with Indigenous groups to come up with solutions.
Audio courtesy of CKOM News:
North Wilson was asked to elaborate on her comments outside the event.
"The previous government — and I don't know about this government — they seem to make decisions without us and that's hurting our people," she told reporters.
However, an audio recording obtained by CBC News confirmed North Wilson referenced the current government as the most racist in Canada in her opening remarks.
The grand chief singled out the province's unwillingness to share its income from Manitoba Hydro, despite the fact 80 per cent of the power is generated in the province's North.
"We should be sharing the resources," she said. "That was the idea and intent of the treaties in the first place — to share the land and resources — and we are not. We're the afterthought."
North Wilson said it was too early to pass judgment on Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government, elected in April 2016, but hoped Indigenous people would be included in this year's provincial budget, which was released Tuesday.
"I do feel hopeful," she said. "And I do have a sense that they're at least trying to talk to us about what our needs are."
Pallister stirred controversy in January when he told politicians at a Progressive Conservative Party luncheon that tensions over night hunting between Indigenous and other Manitobans were "becoming a race war."
FSIN vice-chief Bob Merasty stopped short of calling Saskatchewan's government racist, but said Premier Brad Wall has failed to live up to his promises to First Nations.
"It's smoke and mirrors. There's no real sincerity in what the provincial government is doing. Right now, they're just trying to stay alive," Merasty said.
"Let's look at how we engage First Nations people. Let's sit down together."
Merasty said there are some "tremendous people" working for the provincial government, but there needs to be consultation.
"That hasn't happened. That needs to happen."
A previous version of this story stated that Sheila North Wilson called the former NDP government the most racist government in Canada. The story has been updated to clarify that North Wilson referenced the current government as the most racist in Canada in her opening remarks, based on an audio recording obtained by CBC News.Apr 11, 2017 9:18 PM CT