The Current

How racism affects Aboriginal Canadians in public office

In light of the racist comments directed at Winnipeg Mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette, we held a panel to discuss how racism affects Aboriginal Canadians in public office.
Mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette became the target of racist e-mails and comments on social media when he decided to speak exclusively in French at a debate. We discuss how racism affects Aboriginal Canadians on the campaign trail and in public office.

Mr. Ouellette had no idea his decision to speak exclusively in French at a Winnipeg candidates debate at the Francophone Chamber of Commerce would cause so much anger. But the University of Manitoba administrator, who is also Cree, became the target of some furious, racist comments:

...You are the type of person that complains and only wants things from the government.Comment targetting mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Go back to drinking...Comment targetting mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Mr. Ouellette then sent out a news release revealing exactly what was said.

If one person is willing to say them, there are perhaps others who believe them.Robert-Falcon Ouellette

To tell us why he went public, Robert-Falcon Ouellette joined us from Winnipeg.

And with more on the difficulties Aboriginal Canadians face in public office, and how much racism contributes, we were joined by two guests:

  • James Bartleman is a novelist and former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
  • Pam Palmater is head of the Centre of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University and former legal counsel for Justice Canada.

This segment was produced by The Current's Catherine Kalbfleisch, Shannon Higgins and Dawna Dingwall.

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