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Premier digs in heels on comments

Pallister insists he was misquoted, won't apologize for 'race war' statement

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Premier Brian Pallister and Culture Minister Rochelle Squires at right in a meeting in the Winnipeg Grand Mosque Tuesday.</p>


Premier Brian Pallister and Culture Minister Rochelle Squires at right in a meeting in the Winnipeg Grand Mosque Tuesday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2017 (1116 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Brian Pallister denies uttering an inflammatory remark attributed to him by a national magazine on hunting and indigenous men, and refuses to apologize for an earlier comment that conflict between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people over hunting could become a "race war."

In a media briefing Tuesday, his first since his controversial remarks were widely reported, the premier said he's not going to back away from discussing illegal night hunting, which has already led to a couple of recent deaths in Manitoba and several other close calls.

It was Pallister's first day back on the job in Manitoba after 11 days at his vacation home in Costa Rica. 

Pallister said he made "a wrong choice of words" in referring to tensions over night hunting as potentially leading to a "race war."  He made the comment to a meeting of rural politicians in Virden on Jan. 16. A recording of the event was later distributed widely.

But he outright denied making a more incendiary remark quoted by Maclean's last week. 

The magazine, which tracked him down at his Costa Rican vacation home, quoted him as saying: "Young Indigenous men — a preponderance of them are offenders, with criminal records — are going off shooting guns in the middle of the night. It doesn't make sense."

"I know those statements were not mine; those words were not mine," Pallister told reporters at the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street after meeting with leaders of the city's Muslim community on Tuesday.

Pallister said he wished that the interview had been recorded so he could prove that he didn't make the statement. He said he was offended when he read it.

"I don't have any way to prove what I said or didn't say. I have trusted the media throughout my career in public life. I'll continue to, but I'm telling you, on my honour, that those are not words that I would ever say, nor did I say them then," the premier said.

He told reporters he's worked on behalf of Indigenous people his entire political career, and the comments attributed to him by Maclean's don't jive with his record. "So all I'm asking you is to take a look at my record, do your research and ask yourself, seriously, would I make a comment like that," he said.

In an interview with CBC, Maclean's associate editor Nancy Macdonald, who interviewed Pallister, stood by her story. She also stated that there was no electronic recording of her chat with the Manitoba premier.

NDP MLA Andrew Swan said he was disappointed that Pallister did not take the opportunity Tuesday to apologize for his remarks — both the ones in Virden and in Costa Rica.

"I think we're left with the definite impression he still doesn't see what's wrong with injecting the issue of race into this discussion (about night hunting)," Swan said. 

Swan said he is also puzzled by why Pallister didn't immediately cry foul when the Maclean's article first appeared on Thursday. Instead, the next day, his staff publicized the names of people who had been charged in 2016 with night hunting. 

"If he truly believes that he didn't make the statements attributed to him by Maclean's, he and his staff shouldn't have waited five days to complain..." Swan said. 

Meanwhile, Pallister refused to apologize Tuesday for his earlier "race war" comment. He said no one can deny that the issue of night hunting involves both indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Indigenous people have the right to hunt at night under certain circumstances, he noted. What he said he wants to do is to address the illegal killing of animals using spotlights and high-powered rifles.

"I've already expressed my desire to get this thing (issue) back on track so I think that shows a lot," Pallister said. "There's nothing to apologize for."


Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 6:42 PM CST: Updates

10:05 PM: added videos

10:13 PM: videos added

10:34 PM: videos

10:36 PM: added videos

10:53 PM: video

11:02 PM: videos uploaded

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