Premier Greg Selinger rejected Conservative Opposition calls today that one of his ministers be dropped from cabinet for a comment he made about the "ignorance of do-good white people."
Deputy Premier and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson made the statement in an emailed response to a staff member who raised concerns that a burlesque show would be organized to raise funds for the Osborne House women’s shelter.
On Monday, Selinger noted that Robinson had already issued a statement Friday apologizing for his choice of words.
"He was concerned about burlesque being used as a fund-raising activity for a domestic violence shelter, but he also acknowledged that he could have made a better choice of his words and he apologized. And I accept that," Selinger said in facing the media for the first time since the remarks became widely known on Friday.
Although Selinger disciplined a government backbencher recently for a homophobic comment in the legislature, he said he will not mete out any punishment to Robinson.
The difference, he said, was that Robinson’s statement was made in a "private communication" to a staffer.
"It was never intended for public consumption nor was it intended to single out anybody in the community. So it’s quite was a different set of circumstances," Selinger said, adding that Robinson is a national leader in raising the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
'I've heard worse things said about me': Robinson
Robinson, also addressing the media for the first time since his controversial email became public, said he regretted attaching the word ‘white’ to a criticism about the choice of a fund-raising event organized by do-gooders.
"I’m regretful for a couple of things: the term ‘white’ for one thing, white do-gooders. I am also regretful that the event occurred," he said.
He also said that despite his initial defence of his comments, he was not forced to issue an apology on Friday. He said he simply decided to take the "high road" in the matter. "Nobody twisted my arm, nobody threw me to the ground. Nobody forced me to say anything. It was a statement that I wrote ... myself," he said.
Robinson also denied that his statement was racist. "I don’t think so. I’ve heard worse things said about me. And I still do," he said.
Robinson’s controversial comment came to light after the director of Osborne House, Barbara Judt, received a copy of the email in a freedom of information request.