Premier Brian Pallister said he meant no offence earlier this week when he uttered the phrase "all lives matter" while referring to an upcoming rally at the legislature.
Social media commenters quickly seized upon the remark, which has been linked to criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On Wednesday, the premier denied he intended to use the term as a racist dogwhistle.
"I regret the fact that people would interpret me saying that ‘all lives matter’ to be a racist comment, but I understand that others do say it in that manner for that purpose. I certainly didn’t," he said.
On Tuesday, Pallister was asked if he would attend a Justice 4 Black Lives Matter rally on Friday. The event was sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of local police.
The premier said he would not attend the event for health reasons — he's 65 years old and has asthma — but he would "be there in spirit."
Then he said: "I will encourage all who feel strongly about this issue to use the opportunity to safely demonstrate their support for people of colour. Black lives matter. All lives matter, of course. But in this instance, on the heels of what is happening in the United States and what has been happening too frequently there, we all have, I think, a responsibility... if you can't come to the protest, to make sure that we stand up for equality and the things we believe in."
On Wednesday, he told reporters that "everyone would agree that using those three words in the context of a pandemic was quite legitimate."
"I regret the fact that that phrase is used by others in a different way, but I would be a little bit… obliged to clarify I certainly didn’t mean it in that way, as you well all know."
Meanwhile, Pallister and the province's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, urged rally participants to do everything they can to safeguard their health and that of others at the event.
The crowd is likely to be much greater than the maximum of 50 allowed under current pandemic rules.
"We're looking to have people there make sure that social distancing occurs. I think that that's about the best we can come up with at this point in time. I wouldn't want it said that we weren't trying to make sure people were keeping each other safe," Pallister said Wednesday.
Roussin said large gatherings "could put us at risk for transmission" of the coronavirus.
He urged anyone with even mild symptoms to remain at home.
"I just want everyone to stay safe," he said.
— with files from Carol Sanders
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 Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 8:32 PM CDT: Updates photo.
June 4, 2020 at 9:10 AM: Fixes photo