Poilievre ‘think tank’ event adds to nonsense

As is his calling card, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre chose which media to speak to during his appearance Friday at a Winnipeg event organized by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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As is his calling card, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre chose which media to speak to during his appearance Friday at a Winnipeg event organized by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

If Poilievre were to face a question from me, however, I would ask this big one.

Why is Canada’s leader of the Opposition appearing at an event organized by an organization that denigrates vaccines against COVID-19, promotes links between race and IQ, and features residential school denialism and anti-white conspiracy theories?

For over two decades, the Winnipeg-based “independent public policy think tank” Frontier Centre has been a haven for extremist views.

The organization publishes commentary and opinions on public and economic issues focusing primarily on what they call “Aboriginal futures,” “core public sector reform,” “culture wars,” and “education.”

Did I mention it has charitable status, meaning it is supposed to work in the public interest?

Frontier Centre writers spend most of their pieces attacking those they disagree with. I know, I’ve been one of their targets.

If this was just an issue of free speech, there would be no argument. The Frontier Centre and its opinion writers can say whatever they want.

The problem is their pieces promote anti-Indigenous sentiment, racism, and wouldn’t pass a fact check in any introductory Indigenous studies class.

A Jan. 3, piece calls the search for unmarked graves at former residential school sites “the strangest ongoing episode of mass hysteria playing out in Canada.”

A Dec. 28, 2022, piece decries “anti-white male policies” in Canada and warns: “White males, gun owners, and believers in faith, family, and freedom —beware.”

A Nov. 29, 2022, piece declares: “Indigenous politics in Canada involves a long, drawn-out expensive process designed not only to extract taxpayer dollars but also to block oversight and control narratives” — a conclusion that is ahistorical, without facts, and categorically incorrect.

These are just recent works. It has also published books arguing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is propaganda, the “Indigenization” of universities leads to unqualified professionals, and Canada’s response to COVID-19 was simply a “moral panic.”

It’s well-documented Poilievre has made it part of his political strategy to court right-wing extremists and white supremacists (see his photo with Jeremy MacKenzie or selfies with so-called “freedom convoy” occupiers, for instance).

With his affiliation alongside the Frontier Centre, though, it is clear he is also sowing anti-Indigenous sentiment, too.

While Poilievre publicly says he “denounces racism and anyone who spreads it,” he sure likes to stand beside a lot of racists.

If this is what Canada’s official Opposition is now, watch out.

I’m asked to come on many television and radio shows to “debate” Indigenous issues. For many years, I did. In my youthful naiveté, it was my belief all dialogue is good dialogue.

What I learned through those appearances was that my good credentials, race, and research were being used to legitimize opinions that were anything but.

I found myself debating nonsense like whether racism exists, Europeans stole land from Indigenous peoples, and residential schools were places designed to erase Indigenous culture.

I came to realize debating those who wanted only to argue for the sake of arguing didn’t help. By simply putting good, well-researched and reasoned work out into the world, nonsense is proven irrelevant.

I know Poilievre needs votes. He also needs to solidify his political base, which has been fractured by movements like the People’s Party of Canada (which has much of its support in Manitoba).

The problem is, if you invite gravity deniers into your house, you eventually have to explain the furniture cannot go on the ceiling.

You simply cannot be the prime minister by sowing seeds of violence, anger and division between Canadians and Indigenous people. Well, not unless you’re planning to create civil conflict.

On Thursday, the day before Poilievre attended the Frontier Centre event in Winnipeg, Star Blanket Cree Nation announced 2,000 “ground anomalies” were discovered at the site of the former Lebret, Sask., residential school.

Even if just one of those is the remains of an Indigenous child, Canada needs an empathetic, informed and legitimate voice to help heal an evident, ongoing national tragedy.

The country doesn’t need nonsense like residential schools were fine regardless of the deaths, survivors spread propaganda, and dead Indigenous children don’t really matter.

We all deserve better than that.


Niigaan Sinclair

Niigaan Sinclair

Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Saturday, January 14, 2023 10:31 PM CST: Corrects first paragraph to clarify Poilievre chose which media to speak to instead of not taking questions from media

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