Mayoral candidate’s remark provokes outrage from Indigenous leaders
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/09/2022 (255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Indigenous leaders are condemning a mayoral candidate’s recent remarks as racist and demanding an apology after the nominee suggested First Nations men need to “come to the table” to address the MMIWG crisis during a forum on women’s safety.
All but one contestant vying for the top job at Winnipeg city hall participated in an evening event organized by the Council of Women of Winnipeg on Thursday. The 10 contenders answered questions about everything from transit safety to secure housing for women.
On the subject of safety, security-company owner Don Woodstock made remarks about Indigenous men often being perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women.
Woodstock, who is running a second consecutive campaign for mayor, suggested they must be part of the solution to make Winnipeg — which is home to the largest urban Indigenous population in all of Canada — a safer city.
The comments elicited disapproving murmurs in the crowd. Panel participants were quick to condemn Woodstock for spouting racist remarks; nominee Rana Bokhari briefly left her seat in protest.
Contender Robert-Falcon Ouellette said the “disgracious” utterances highlight the overall atmosphere in Winnipeg, with regards to the othering of Indigenous people — especially those who live in the core of the city.
“It feeds into that narrative, that story that Indigneous men are dangerous, that Indigenous peoples are the problem,” said Ouellette, who is mixed Cree and Métis and from Red Pheasant First Nation. “It sends a strong, and the wrong message about who we are and what we can become.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak released separate statements denouncing Woodstock’s commentary. Leaders at both organizations urged him to reflect on his remarks and apologize to First Nations people.
“MMIWG is a systemic and societal issue that is linked to the violent impacts of colonization, assimilation, and the continued removal of First Nations children from their homes, lands, and nations,” AMC deputy grand chief Cornell McLean said in a news release.
McLean, a member of Lake Manitoba First Nation, said he is especially appalled by the fact these “racist and stereotypical” statements were made by someone who wants to lead Winnipeg.
Leaders must continuously educate themselves on issues affecting First Nations people rather than place blame on marginalized groups, he said, adding everyone in society has a responsibility to protect Indigenous women and girls.
McLean urged all candidates to read the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report, which includes 231 calls for justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and citizens.
Despite the backlash, Woodstock is standing by his comments.
“It was something that needed to be said,” said the mayoral candidate, adding he has received positive feedback.
“I know a few (Indigenous men) that are very, very outstanding citizens, have good family values, exemplifying members of the community… but I do come across a few of them that have some views that need to be addressed,” he said Friday.
Woodstock justified his remarks by noting that regardless of nationality, gender-based violence often occurs between people who are known to each other.
“First Nation community men and youth need to come to the table and be part of the solution. They have the link,” he added.
In a release Friday, MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee called Woodstock’s remarks “disgusting.”
“We already have many warriors who are ‘at the table,’ working to reclaim cultural teachings and to end gender-based violence. I commend all First Nations citizens who are doing this work, along with our allies,” Settee said, noting MKO has an active MMIWG liaison unit.
The leader from Pimicikamak Cree Nation said he is sorry that people affected by gender-based violence have been exposed to the candidate’s divisive and misinformed statements.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
Updated on Friday, September 23, 2022 4:13 PM CDT: Adds photo
Updated on Friday, September 23, 2022 4:40 PM CDT: Adds comments from Robert-Falcon Ouellette