B.C. MLA under fire for suggesting Indigenous languages funding better spent on policing

B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Morris is under fire after comments he made in the legislature on Monday, suggesting that funding committed to Indigenous languages in the provinces would be better spent on policing resources.

B.C. Liberal Mike Morris made comments in the legislature on Monday

Mike Morris is the former B.C. public safety minister and before entering politics spent 32 years in the RCMP. (John Yanyshyn)

B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Morris is under fire after comments he made in the legislature on Monday, suggesting that funding committed to Indigenous languages in the province would be better spent on policing resources. 

British Columbia announced $50 million in funding toward preserving and revitalizing Indigenous languages throughout the province in the NDP government's budget last week.

During her budget speech, Finance Minister Carole James pointed out that Indigenous languages in the province are under threat, emphasizing that B.C. is home to 60 per cent of First Nations languages in the country.

Former public safety minister

Morris singled out that funding commitment in the legislature on Monday, while criticizing the NDP budget in his role as public safety critic. 

"You know all the First Nations communities that I've lived in, Indigenous languages were important," Morris said.

"But here we have people suffering every day from alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse and preserving languages is a higher priority than putting that money into extra policing resources. From a risk management perspective, I think that this really needs to be re-examined."

Morris is the former B.C. public safety minister, and before entering politics spent 32 years in the RCMP. He's not yet been available for an interview. 

'Negative stereotype'

"They're sad comments from the Liberals, but it's not surprising, and that's the saddest part of it all," said Bob Chamberlin, chief councillor for the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation and vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Bob Chamberlin says funding Indigenous languages shows some real action in response to the legacy of residential schools in Canada. (CBC)

He said instead of attacking the funding for Indigenous languages, the investment should be applauded.

"It's a way to save a vital component of our people, all the way across British Columbia," he said.

"The fact that the MLA spoke about the alcoholism, the drug addiction and so on — and the need to take this money for better policing — it just perpetuates a negative stereotype that needs to be overcome.

"I think that he needs to do a lot more reading on the history of Canada and relationship to First Nations people."

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, was even more pointed in her criticism of Morris' comments.

On Twitter she described him as insensitive and clueless about First Nations communities and called for Morris to apologize and resign.

With files from Farrah Merali, The Early Edition