Mayor Brian Bowman is publicly pressuring Manitoba’s premier to apologize for his comments on Canada’s colonial history, which have been roundly condemned.
In a Friday morning tweet, the mayor urged Premier Brian Pallister to apologize for comments Bowman deemed "historically inaccurate and counterproductive to our journey of reconciliation."
Bowman said he felt compelled to ask the premier to express his remorse after hearing from Indigenous people.
"I was quite angered by the comments because I, along with many Winnipeggers, have put so much effort into building bridges with Indigenous peoples in Canada and I was hopeful… and I still am, that the premier will just simply apologize," he said.
Bowman’s tweet was posted a couple of hours before he joined provincial and federal officials for an infrastructure announcement, while the premier made the comments on July 7.
"The people who came to this country, before it was a country and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything," Pallister said at the time. "They came to build better."
Multiple Indigenous leaders and others have condemned the comments, stating they ignore the harms of colonialism on Indigenous people, including within the residential school system. Pallister did not specifically mention the schools, facilities the mayor described as "part of a genocide committed against Indigenous cultures (and) Indigenous peoples."
"I’ve been waiting, along with a lot of Manitobans, for the premier to apologize. If his caucus won’t publicly insist that he apologize, I think it falls on community leaders like myself," said Bowman.
So far, the premier has stood by his comments, stating that they have been misconstrued.
In an email, a spokesperson for the premier’s office declined to comment on the timing of Bowman’s tweet and did not state specifically whether the premier will apologize.
"Premier and cabinet are focused on real reconciliation efforts and advancing equal opportunity for all. Only the mayor can comment on what his personal motivations are for himself," the statement said.
Bowman said he posted his request Friday simply due to growing concerns about the premier’s comments.
Manitoba cabinet ministers Scott Fielding and Reg Helwer were also at Friday’s press conference. While neither weighed in on the call for an apology, both ministers stressed they are committed to reconciliation.
"My opinion on this is it’s a tragedy that happened (at residential schools) and, I think, as a society, here in Manitoba, we need to learn from mistakes that happened in the past so we can go forward. And, so, I’m absolutely committed to reconciliation," said Fielding.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.