Indigenous issues spark debate
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/10/2022 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Seven Winnipeg mayoral candidates butted heads Tuesday evening on the subject of Indigenous enterprise at a debate hosted by the Treaty 1 First Nations.
Predetermined questions from Treaty 1 chiefs were presented to Glen Murray, Scott Gillingham, Shaun Loney, Kevin Klein, Jenny Motkaluk, Rana Bokhari and Robert-Falcon Ouellette during the event at the Viscount Gort Hotel.
Among them: the candidates’ thoughts on whether or not to widen Kenaston Boulevard.
“If I’m elected mayor, investment in Winnipeg now is critical. And for Naawi-Oodena (the southwest land development led by Treaty 1) to be successful, Kenaston Boulevard needs to be widened and it needs to work properly,” Gillingham told the gathering.
Loney, however, said he was concerned about focusing on widening the major north-south route, instead saying, if elected on Oct. 26, he would place resources into addressing bottlenecks around intersections and making operations more environmentally sustainable by improving transit links.
“I want to address the traffic on Kenaston, and we have a five-point plan on how we can do that, which would mean moving sooner than the expansion idea,” Loney said. “I think it has a much higher chance of getting federal funding and that really involves thinking about the Kenaston greenway as opposed to the Kenaston freeway.”
In the past, the seven Treaty 1 First Nations developing the former Kapyong barracks site have called widening Kenaston a top priority.
While on the same question, Bokhari and Klein got into a dispute about the facts behind a city council decision, after Ouellette segued from the topic to discuss safety concerns Indigenous women face using taxi services in Winnipeg.
Ouellette said councillors, including Klein and Gillingham, initially voted against a proposed bylaw change that would include a code of conduct and fines for Transit workers, then later approved it after hours of testimonials from delegates, many of whom were Indigenous women.
Klein shook his head as Bokhari described the situation as “basic truth.”
“I know Kevin (Klein) says that didn’t happen, but we were there, and it absolutely did happen, so I just want to acknowledge that because I think this was basic truth and we should really be speaking truth,” she said.
It was a matter of needing more time to make the right decision, Klein pushed back.
“There were some items within that motion that had to be revisited, and it was sent back to the proper policy committee for a vote and then brought back to council,” he said. “Same situation, very different actual outcome… And then when it came back to council after that, because we had time to work on it… it was approved. Those are the facts.”
Motkaluk criticized some of her fellow candidates for making “an awful lot of patronizing comments” during the forum.
She appeared at the Tuesday event, despite publishing an open letter the day before, calling on Treaty 1 leaders to “clarify if (they) agree with AMC that Canadians must abandon their love of Canada and the unity it brings” before she agreed to attend.
Motkaluk pulled out of an upcoming candidates forum hosted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs after the group criticized her for comments about Canada Day programming at The Forks, which she claimed had been cancelled in the name of political correctness.
Via Twitter, Motkaluk said she had decided to attend Tuesday’s event “after a very respectful dialogue” with Treaty 1 representatives.
The candidates — seven of the 11 names that will appear on the Oct. 26 ballot — were also asked how they would approach homelessness in Winnipeg. All discussed housing.
Motkaluk reiterated her promise to have the city seize derelict homes and auction them off to private landlords. Bokhari argued she would instead put such homes in the hands of community organizations. Murray promised to start by funding recovery services for people dealing with addictions.
“We’ll be working with many of you in this room to create the networks of supports and interventions to help people in crisis get rapidly into housing, and for people with addictions to get into detox and not have to wait to get into treatment and not have to wait to get into recovery programs,” Murray said.
Improving Indigenous economic development was also a central theme.
Klein pledged to create an Indigenous economic development position at city hall. Loney said he would invest in an Indigenous art hotel, where artists could live and work. Ouellette said he would invest in Indigenous-based tourism.
“There are people around the world who want authentic experiences, who want to see Indigenous peoples,” Ouellette said. “People in France and Germany, China, Japan… they would come to Winnipeg to experience and spend their money in our communities to make our city stronger.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.