Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Minister's 'listen to your father' remark irks MP Ashton

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said she was offended Tuesday when a federal cabinet minister suggested she check with her father before criticizing federal legislation.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt made the comment under questioning by Ashton during a committee hearing about a bill to extend similar marital-property rights to women living on reserve similar to those women living off reserve enjoy.

Ashton was critical of the government for not consulting widely enough on the bill and asked if every First Nation in Canada had been approached.

"Maybe you should listen to your father," Valcourt told her, referring to Manitoba Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton.

The provincial NDP government unanimously passed a resolution in support of the legislation in December, which Valcourt pointed to in his response.

But Ashton was not impressed. She tried to interrupt him several times, finally calling a point of order to get the floor back.

"I feel offended by the comment that you've made," she said. "If we're talking about paternalism, it takes many forms, and asking me who I talk to and don't talk from my family is not part of who we are talking about here. I ask the kind of respect I am showing to the witnesses from the witnesses as well."

Valcourt apologized if she was offended. "I did not want to sound paternalistic, and if I have offended the member, I sincerely apologize," he said. "We have been exhorted by the Province of Manitoba and others across Canada to give spouses on reserve the same rights other Canadians enjoy."

University of Winnipeg political scientist Shannon Sampert said Valcourt's comment was "mind-boggling."

"It's just so inappropriate," she said.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2013 A4

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