Pallister says Tories engage in more meaningful reconciliation than NDP
'I actually grew up next to a reserve and I have full understanding of life on reserve,' PC leader says
Manitoba's Tory leader says his party is engaged in more meaningful reconciliation than the NDP has ever done — but that hasn't stopped the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs from endorsing the New Democrats in the provincial election.
Asked on Thursday what he would do for Indigenous Manitobans, PC leader Brian Pallister said his party is already doing more than the NDP did when it was in power.
"Unlike most of the premiers in the last 60 years, I actually grew up next to a reserve and I have full understanding of life on reserve because I've spent my life touring and visiting reserves," said Pallister, who spent three years as Indian Affairs critic while he was an opposition MP in Ottawa.
"I visited over 150 first nations communities and I can tell you that what we've been doing is genuine reconciliation. Building Freedom Road when the NDP couldn't get it done. Getting people home back to the Interlake communities that they were evacuated from because of flooding when the NDP couldn't get it done.
"Building partnerships on resource development, which the NDP could not get done."
Pallister's comments, made toward the end of a PC education announcement, earned the ire of some Manitoba Indigenous leaders.
Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches, whose community is close to the Pallister family farm in the Portage la Prairie area, said the Tory leader does not understand reserve life..
"I don't really see any evidence of that. There's a lot of frustration out there with Indigenous leadership with this government at this time and under his watch," Meeches said in a telephone interview.
While Pallister has heralded his government's support for mining and forestry, Meeches said the PCs have not done enough to develop Indigenous economies. He also said he fears proposed provincial oversight of the City of Winnipeg planning-approval processes will thwart efforts to develop Indigenous-owned land within the city.
Jerry Daniels, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, called Pallister's perspective "skewed" and claimed the Tories are erecting new barriers to Indigenous economic development.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, meanwhile, endorsed Manitoba's NDP in a move Meeches described as unprecedented.
NDP leader Wab Kinew, who grew up on Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario, said Pallister does not understand Indigenous life.
"Well, I grew up on a reserve and I don't think Mr. Pallister gets it, but it's not because of who he is. It's just because of his approach, right?" Kinew said. "He's chosen to be very combative with everybody whether they are First Nations or not."
The Tories are heralding more Indigenous representation within the party. Pallister said last week 10 of 57 Tory candidates in this election are Indigenous.
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