'Change is necessary': Former Manitoba Indigenous relations minister posts statement about resignation

Manitoba's former minister of Indigenous and northern relations says she had to deal with "some serious issues in my life and work" in a statement on Thursday in the wake of her resignation from cabinet.

Eileen Clarke says she feels her voice and others are not being heard in cabinet

Eileen Clarke, MLA for Agassiz, was Manitoba's minister of Indigenous and northern relations until she resigned last week. (CBC)

Manitoba's former minister of Indigenous and northern relations says she had to deal with "some serious issues in my life and work" in a statement on Thursday in the wake of her resignation from cabinet.

"I made the decision to step down from cabinet where I felt my voice and others are not being heard," Eileen Clarke said in a post on Facebook.

"Strong leadership is required to heal and bring our province and country together in harmony, it can not be done by one individual. Inappropriate words and actions can be very damaging."

Clarke, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Agassiz, stepped down from her cabinet position on Friday — two days after Premier Brian Pallister suggested the colonization of Canada was done with good intentions.

His comments came as he chastised people involved in tearing down statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature on Canada Day, after a walk held to remember Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

Clarke kept a low profile after her decision, which didn't come to light until Wednesday. She told media that day she didn't want to comment out of respect for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs election that was taking place.

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On Thursday, her first comments about the resignation were made in a post on her Facebook page.

"I realize its been a while since I've posted but there have been some serious issues in my life and work I've had to work through as I'm sure most of you have already heard by now," Clarke wrote.

"It was a difficult decision and one I did not make without a lot of thought and soul searching. I enjoyed the five years working with Indigenous leadership and communities and was looking forward to more positive outcomes in the coming months."

Clarke's statement never mentions Pallister by name, but it says she's heard from people across the province who are "disappointed with the representation they feel they are not getting."

"Change is necessary," the statement says.

"It is not my intent to divide or be disrespectful, but I do feel transparency is required."

When Pallister spoke last week about the events that took place on Canada Day, when a crowd of people pulled down the statues and later someone removed the head of the Queen Victoria statue, he said Manitobans need to respect "our heritage" and one another.

The statue of Queen Victoria lies on the ground with its head removed in front of the Manitoba Legislature. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

He called Canada a complex country made up of complex people and said we shouldn't tear down or highlight every failure from the past.

"The people who came here to this country — before it was a country and since — didn't come here to destroy anything. They came here to build. They came to build better," he said, adding the statues would be restored.

Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901, a period marked by the unparalleled expansion of the British Empire, including continued expansion across what's now called Canada.

The action on the legislative grounds on Canada Day were a reaction to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former Indian residential schools across the country.

In her Facebook post, Clarke said she wants it to be very clear that she does not in any way condone violence and destruction.

"This will never resolve any issue and tends to deepen frustration and anger. This behaviour was not a part of the Indigenous people I know and respect," she said. 

Clarke said she spoke up in government on issues sent her way and intends to continue that as a backbencher, calling this "a new day and a new journey."

She also committed "to doing what's right for the people of Manitoba and myself" including advocating "for genuine reconciliation and unity."

Pallister will announce a cabinet shuffle Thursday morning.

In her post, Clarke thanked the colleagues and staff that she worked with in the ministry and said she believes she is now on her proper path.

"My journey continues in the direction I know feels right."

Clarke was first elected as the Progressive Conservative MLA for the electoral district of Agassiz in 2016 and became the minister of Indigenous and municipal relations the same year, her profile on the government's website says.

She was re-elected as an MLA in 2019 and remained a minister until her resignation.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.