What has largely been political silence on platforms to address the recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls broke Tuesday, when the Manitoba Liberals addressed controversial comments from an election hopeful.
For nearly three years, the inquiry held hearings for families to amplify their loved ones’ stories and speak to injustices. On June 3, it released a final report that offered 231 "calls for justice" to Canadian institutions and the public to protect Indigenous women and girls from violence.
Following a public forum in Portage la Prairie, Charles Huband, former Manitoba Liberal Party leader and the candidate for the area, told local media it was time to "move on" from the inquiry. However, it is unclear exactly what he was asked in a recording of the interview.
"I would say move on, move on to other issues that affect Indigenous people," Huband said in an audio recording published last week by Portage Online.
In the recording, he adds "reports" indicate steps that might be taken to improve life on reserves, in terms of education, employment and housing. "That I think is more important than continuing to concern ourselves about a report that’s already been provided and that we can all read at our leisure."
Nahanni Fontaine, the New Democrat candidate for St. Johns and a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, called the comments "cold and heartless."
"Move on from what?" she said. "Nothing’s been done yet.
"It’s incredibly hurtful towards MMIWG family members and Indigenous women who have been fighting for this issue for well over 40 years, to bring attention to the issue," Fontaine said, adding the NDP committed to implementing the calls for justice when the report was first released.
When asked about the comment at a news conference Tuesday, Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the "most important thing" is implementing the inquiry’s recommendations.
The party apologized for Huband’s comments and is clear in its stance — "the time for talk is over, and the time for action is now," Liberal spokesman Colin Roy said in a statement.
"Mr. Huband’s intention was never meant to downplay the seriousness of the issue," Roy said. "His intention was to call for action on the many issues that came up in this inquiry."
Meanwhile, the party also addressed a March 28, 2018, post by Twitter user @FrangiSunday, in which the user — who appeared to be Liberal Brandon West candidate Sunday Frangi — retweeted a link to a story about the Pope’s decision not to issue an apology to residential school survivors.
The user wrote: "Apologize for what? Will that be the end of those many apologies to indigenous Pple here in Canada! Knowing that Canadian government itself had apologized before on behalf of all Canadian."
Roy said Frangi’s handle is @SundayFrangi and the former account was an impersonator, who has been reported to Twitter. @FrangiSunday was deactivated later in the day, after the Free Press reached out for comment.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
Updated on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 6:17 AM CDT: Fixes headline, adds photo
12:44 PM: Clarifies when the recording was posted.