Ottawa

Harper's Quebec chief apologizes after Algonquins offended

The office of a Conservative MP and cabinet minister has issued an apology to Algonquins in his western Quebec riding after his riding assistant made remarks that some denounced as racist.

The office of a Conservative MP and cabinet minister has issued an apology to Algonquins in his western Quebec riding after his riding assistant made remarks that some denounced as racist.

The comments by Darlene Lannigan came at the Maniwaki, Que., launch this week of the re-election campaign of Lawrence Cannon, transport minister and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant.

In a conversation recorded by the Aboriginal People's Television Network outside Cannon's Maniwaki campaign office during its opening Tuesday, Norman Matchewan, a member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, asked Lannigan if he will be arrested if he visits Cannon's constituency office.

The Barriere Lake reserve is about 300 kilometres northwest of Ottawa in Cannon's riding of Pontiac, and a group including Matchewan had visited the office for a rally.

"If you behave and you're sober and there's no problem and if you sit down and whatever, I don't care," a female voice that the network identified as Lannigan responds in the recording.

She goes on to say that "one of them showed up the other day and was drinking."

When contacted by CBC News, Lannigan would not deny she made the remarks.

The Algonquins allege Lannigan also made other crude comments.

Cannon's office issued its apology Wednesday after being asked about the incident by the Aboriginal People's Television Network.

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologize for any offence given," it said. "We also understand these comments were made in a difficult context. That is regrettable."

Meeting planned this week

The statement also said the remarks don't reflect the views of the government of Canada, and the parties involved will meet this week.

Campaign officials said Lannigan, who is a paid Conservative party official, will not be dismissed as a result of the incident.

Matchewan said he hadn't heard anything about the meeting mentioned in the statement, and unless Cannon " puts some action into his words" there won't be a meeting.

He added that he didn't think the context in which the remarks were made was difficult.

"We showed up in a respectful manner. We were peaceful," the teacher and part-time police officer said Thursday. "What she said was very offensive. It only goes to show how much they disrespect our community."

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the remarks were a reflection of the Conservative party as it heads toward the Oct. 14 election.

"It's another example of the kind of contempt and arrogance they have, especially I would say towards the First Nations," he said.

"What I'm talking about [is] that kind of ideology that doesn't correspond to Quebec and I would say human values.… I think it's [the] kind of people we have in that party, sadly."

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