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Emerson MLA criticizes asylum-seekers, apologizes

John Woods / The Canadian Press Files</p><p>Migrants from Somalia are arrested and detained by RCMP in 2017 after crossing into Canada illegally from the United States by walking down a train track into the town of Emerson.</p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press Files

Migrants from Somalia are arrested and detained by RCMP in 2017 after crossing into Canada illegally from the United States by walking down a train track into the town of Emerson.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/2/2018 (880 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Tory MLA has agreed to take sensitivity training after tweeting asylum seekers are a "drain on society" and retweeting comments that call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "traitor" and "Turdeau".

And, depending on the beliefs of Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon, experts in civility and sensitivity say the training he needs could range from 45 minutes to 60 hours.

The tweets on social media, made in recent days by Graydon, has caused the Emerson MLA to apologize and the party's caucus to distance itself from the tweets.

"Above all, political debates must be respected," Graydon wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night.

"This is a standard that I've not met on social media, as a result I will be taking some sensitivity training while limiting social media activity. I wish to offer my sincere and unequivocal apology for any offensive (sic) I've made."

In a statement, Progressive Conservative caucus chair Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet) said "we have been made aware of some unacceptable comments made or retweeted by Mr. Graydon.

"These tweets do not reflect the views our caucus and our government."

As well, a statement from the caucus said the decision to step back from social media was "mutually agreed" to by the caucus and Graydon.

Graydon's tweet that asylum seekers were a "drain on society" was posted on Jan. 31, when he responded to a tweet that said "49,775 asylum claims made in Canada in 2017. Illegals."

Graydon's riding includes Emerson, the border town which has seen a large rise in the numbers of asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States in 2017.

His Twitter account also had retweets of comments describing Trudeau as a "traitor" and "Turdeau".

Graydon's asylum seekers tweet was deleted on Tuesday when he issued the apology

NDP Leader Wab Kinew criticized Graydon and called on Graydon and Premier Brian Pallister for a fuller explanation.

Barbara Bowes, who works in the field of human resources as president of Legacy Bowes Group, said part of the sensitivity training needed by Graydon would be to point out "what is an appropriate comment in public regarding immigrants who are crossing the border.

"Comments can be perceived as discriminatory and without taste... training would consist of paying attention to the potential audience and helping individuals be more sensitive to the impact of what they are saying.

"Perhaps the old adage that mothers taught you - think before you speak." 

Lew Bayer, an internationally recognized civility expert and founder of the Winnipeg-based Centre for Cultural Competence, said the amount of training Graydon will need depends on whether his statements were one-off or whether they reflect a deep seated belief.

"It would take a 45 minute session, where we would teach him to apologize, or 40 to 60 hours if there's real racism behind it," she said.

"If these views are in his heart and mind you can't change these views easily."

Bayer said the comments and retweets also show Graydon is "lacking in civility.

"It just comes off as immature... he's old enough to know better."

Sue Hemphill, a mediation services' representative with the Resolution Skills Centre, said cultural sensitivity is "a life long learning process" and they offer training sessions with a diverse group of people.

Hemphill said between Graydon's tweets and retweets he manages "to demean immigrants, refugees, (and) people with disabilities which negatively affects all of us.

"That is scapegoating and perpetuating stereotypes keeps those faulty stereotypes in place. Our elected officials should be models of civility and cultural respect."



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Updated on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 8:11 PM CST: updates story

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