British Columbia

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs calls on federal minister to resign over 'racist' text sent to MP

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is calling on federal minister Carolyn Bennett to resign from cabinet after sending what it describes as a “racist, demeaning message” to Indigenous MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Carolyn Bennett suggested Jody Wilson-Raybould's recent Indigenous activism was ploy to secure pension

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett has apologized for a text message she sent to Vancouver MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is calling on federal minister Carolyn Bennett to resign from cabinet after sending what it describes as a "racist, demeaning message" to Indigenous MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Bennett, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, apologized publicly Thursday after suggesting Wilson-Raybould's concern over residential schools and Indigenous rights was really a ploy to secure a generous pension.

Bennett sent a text message with the word "Pension?" to Wilson-Raybould in response to a tweet from the Independent Vancouver MP criticizing Justin Trudeau for his lack of action on Indigenous rights legislation.

The UBCIC stated in an open letter that an apology is not sufficient amends for the "extreme callousness, spite, and ignorance [shown] through the racist message."

"You're implying that MP Wilson-Raybould's fight for equality and justice is only motivated by a pension is categorically untrue, misogynistic, and condemnable," reads the letter signed by Indigenous Chiefs Stewart Phillip, Don Tom and Judy Wilson.

 

It claims that with the single word "pension," Bennett perpetuated a racial stereotype that "Indigenous peoples are lazy and only financially motivated."

Wilson-Raybould made similar claims earlier Thursday, adding that the text message suggested that "a strong Indigenous woman is a bad" Indigenous woman.

Bennett's pension reference appeared to suggest that Wilson-Raybould is worried she won't be eligible for a pension if
she should fail to win re-election in a vote this summer or early fall.

Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Wilson-Raybould was one of 142 MPs elected for the first time on October 19, 2015. For those MPs, defeat in an election taking place before October 19, 2021 would deprive them of a pension.

At a minimum, they could lose a retirement allowance of just over $32,000 per year starting at age 65. This amount is indexed and becomes more generous based on the number of additional years of service.

The Indigenous MP, who represents the Vancouver—Granville riding, took to Twitter earlier in the day to criticize the prime minister after the discovery of 751 unmarked graves near a former Saskatchewan residential school.

The UBCIC added that Bennett's text message was dismissive of the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous children on the lands of former residential schools.

It says the text was especially disturbing coming from the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations "who has a mandate of the highest order to protect and advance Indigenous title, rights, and welfare."
 

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