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'Do-good white people' comment rapped

Store owner who hosted fundraiser says she isn't even Caucasian

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Pamela Fox says Eric Robinson owes her an apology for his comments in an email.

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Pamela Fox says Eric Robinson owes her an apology for his comments in an email.

Another woman at the centre of deputy premier Eric Robinson's racially charged remark about "do-good white people" is not white and feels the deputy premier owes her an apology.

Pamela Fox, the owner of the Foxy Shoppe women's clothing and lingerie boutique in the Exchange District, released a statement Wednesday outlining her disappointment with the events of the last week and clarifying her connection with Osborne House.

"(Robinson's) comments made me sad, that someone in our government would say that and put us so far back as people," she said in an interview. "Race doesn't even come into my mind, and then I hear something like this."

Fox found the spotlight last week after it was revealed her store hosted a fundraiser for Osborne House last year. Part of the programming for the small event was a burlesque show, performed by local burlesque dancer Angela La Muse.

'(Robinson's) comments made me sad, that someone in our government would say that and put us so far back as people. Race doesn't even come into my mind, and then I hear something like this' -- Pamela Fox

The theme prompted an email from Nahanni Fontaine, special adviser on aboriginal women's issues, to Robinson, which became public last week. In the exchange, a blacked-out section, readable when held up to the light, has Robinson state "(it) also further demonstrates the ignorance of do-good white people without giving it a second thought."

Last week, it was revealed Osborne House CEO Barbara Judt filed a Manitoba Human Rights Commission complaint over Robinson's comments.

Judt also rejected a statement of apology from Robinson over the weekend.

When Fox says the colour of a person's skin "doesn't even come into (her) mind," it's difficult not to take those words at face value. Fox is a person of mixed race, and as a child was adopted into a family of white parents, a white sister and two aboriginal brothers. That's part of the reason she put out the statement: to express her frustration with the insensitivity in Robinson's email.

"It seems like this is causing division and causing people to just focus on the race aspect," she said. "I never thought this would happen -- I'm actually still shocked the comments were made -- and it really bothers me.

"I have no anger towards anyone," Fox added. "Really, I'm more concerned for any woman who's currently in an abusive situation and how this story and the attention might cause her to be reluctant to come forward."

As someone who found assistance at Osborne House three years ago, Fox can offer a first-hand account of the important work the women's shelter does and the funding issues it faces annually.

"I believe Osborne House was one of the major steps in saving my life. If I had not picked up the phone and called them, I may not be alive to write this today," she wrote in the release.

She is also seeking an apology from both Robinson and Fontaine for speaking about her without "verifying a single fact." Like many who deemed the "do-good white people" comment offensive, she also found the deputy premier's remorse lacking in sincerity.

"It's all so disappointing," Fox said. "Wouldn't a true apology make such a difference -- an apology to the public at large for such a sad, ignorant display of judgment?

"We all make mistakes. He made a big one."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2013 A5

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