Premier calls alleged sexual assaults, racism by Manitoba Hydro workers 'deplorable'
Pallister makes first comments on report detailing allegations by Fox Lake Cree Nation members
Premier Brian Pallister says his government is taking the right approach to addressing alleged sexual assaults and racism by Manitoba Hydro workers against members of a remote northern First Nation.
Pallister made his first public comments about the allegations after a private meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday evening.
The allegations, made by members of Fox Lake Cree Nation, were revealed in a report produced by the Clean Environment Commission. The report was released by the provincial government in August, although it was completed in May.
"My reaction would be that's deplorable behaviour, and I have to admit, my puzzlement is why this wasn't investigated sooner or didn't come to light sooner," Pallister said, adding that he believes his government has taken the right approach by referring the information to the RCMP.
Some members of Fox Lake Cree Nation say the government didn't give them any advance notice of the release of the report, so the community was traumatized when it hit the news.
Pallister said his government didn't want to delay the release of the report.
"I think the right thing to do is release the report. A lot of this information was in the public domain over the last number of weeks and months anyway. It wasn't the case of it being new in that respect," he said.
However, he accepted criticism of the timeline of the report's release.
"I would rather accept those criticisms, than accept the argument that we were in any way covering up information that is important to be released," he said.
No plans to visit community
Fox Lake Chief Walter Spence has said he expects Pallister to visit the community.
The premier said Tuesday he was not sure of the effectiveness of such a trip.
"I think most of the communities would prefer that there be jobs created in their communities, that there be better water, many other tangible things rather than symbolism," he said.
"That's what I'm hearing and I've been in dozens of First Nations communities in the last two years."
Vague on threat to sue Free Press
Pallister was also asked about his threat to sue the Winnipeg Free Press over stories it published about unpaid taxes on the premier's vacation home in Costa Rica.
"I'm big enough to admit my mistakes. I'd like the Free Press to admit theirs, too," he said when asked if he would withdraw his threat.
"That's not the question," one reporter said.
"That's the answer," the premier replied.
With files from Sean Kavanagh