Coun. Browaty to meet to with elders about reconciliation

Coun. Jeff Browaty plans to meet with elders as part of an effort to mend fences with an Indigenous community perturbed by his comments about reconciliation-related education.

'There is a fair bit I need to learn,' he says after comments about residential school classes for city staff

Coun. Jeff Browaty will retain his position as chair of the Winnipeg Police Board but plans to meet with elders and learn more about residential schools. (CBC)

Coun. Jeff Browaty plans to meet with elders as part of an effort to mend fences with an Indigenous community perturbed by his comments about reconciliation-related education.

At city council on Wednesday morning, the North Kildonan councillor and police board chair questioned a plan for all city staff to attend half-day seminars about the legacy of residential schools.

"Winnipeg already has an absolutely stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights," he said.

"[Paying] employees overtime to attend this type of training, taking them away from cutting grass and providing the services we count on, I don't think that that is our position."

After a lunch break — as well as a social-media outcry — he apologized for those comments and said he supports the education efforts, even as he questioned why the city did not disclose the cost.

Mayor Brian Bowman said Wednesday he would consider the impact Browaty's comments would have on his role as chair of the police board, whose work includes efforts to improve relations between the Winnipeg Police Service and the city's Indigenous community.

Mayor accepts apology

Bowman also said he was concerned the councillor voted against a city report about steps it plans to take to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On Friday, the mayor said in a statement he has accepted Browaty's apology and will not remove him from the police board.

Bowman, however, also said he received many calls and emails about the "detrimental impact" Browaty's statements will have on reconciliation efforts.

The mayor said on Thursday members of his Indigenous advisory circle questioned whether Browaty's views are consistent with police philosophy, and questioned whether he should continue to serve as chair of the police board.

Meeting with elders recommended

The advisory committee recommended Browaty meet with elders "to discuss the impact his words have had on reconciliation efforts and the community" and undergo further education.

Browaty said Friday he accepts those recommendations.

"I'm going to be meeting with a couple of elders to talk about the significance of reconciliation and the intent of half-day training we'll be offering our staff," the councillor said in an interview.

"I think this is important for people, especially those in elected office, to understand this history. It's a positive thing to do," he said.​

"I've heard all sorts of opinions on the matter. I appreciate there is a fair bit I need to learn."


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food 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 both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.