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Email sparks demand for police probe

Manitoba Wildlife Federation responds to phoney message

Manitoba's oldest conservation group, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, is calling for an RCMP investigation after the circulation of an email that was wrongly signed by its administrative director.

The email, which calls for a countermovement to Idle No More and an end to treaty rights, bears the electronic signature tag of the federation's administrative director, Beverley Sawchuk.

"This matter is very disturbing and we appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight," Sawchuk told the Free Press. Sawchuk's name appears at the bottom of the one-page letter, suggesting she wrote it and perhaps delivered it as a speech.

That's wrong, she said.

"The Manitoba Wildlife Federation does not in any way condone or endorse the opinions expressed in the email," Sawchuk said.

None of it came from the federation, Sawchuk said. But the email did come to the federation, earlier this winter.

Sawchuk said she first saw the email Jan. 14, when a copy of it popped into her inbox.

She forwarded it to her executive committee, a standard practice with letters from the public, with her signature tag attached. She never dreamed it would take on a second life on the Internet with her name on it.

The letter is filled with invective anonymous comments, the kind that show up every day on media websites, with stereotypes about aboriginal leaders as "corrupt" and treaty rights as "entitlements." She said it "appears to be a disturbing attempt to defame our organization."

The federation is turning to native leaders and the province for help.

"Given the severity of this incident and its legal implications, we have encouraged Minister (Gord) Mackintosh, Minister (Eric) Robinson and Grand Chief Murray Clearsky to launch an RCMP investigation into this matter," Sawchuk said.

The federation, established in 1944, is a non-profit conservation group that works closely with the provincial government and aboriginal groups.

Robinson was travelling in the north and could not be reached for comment.

Clearsky said the email tangles up legal and criminal implications. It's disturbing but he didn't say whether he'll take it to the RCMP.

"The malicious intent is there," Clearsky said. "And the slander, and it's inciting hatred against an identifiable group, but how does the Crown prosecute something like this? There's the anonymity of the Internet. And the issue of hacking and electronic security."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2013 A7


Updated on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 7:45 AM CDT: adds fact box

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