By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Fallout from the Manitoba premier’s remarks on Canadian history continues to grow with the mayor of Winnipeg urging Brian Pallister to apologize.
“Any comments that either deny or just even attempt to marginalize the purposes or the impact of residential schools — it’s just not historically accurate and it’s so counterproductive to our journey of reconciliation,” Brian Bowman, who is Métis, said Friday.
“I was quite angered by the comments.”
Pallister has faced criticism from many Indigenous leaders over his comments at a July 7 news conference about protesters who had toppled two statues on the legislature grounds in protest over the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools.
Pallister denounced the vandalism. He did not mention residential schools but said people who came to Canada — before and after it was a country — did not come to destroy, but to build communities, businesses and schools.
Indigenous leaders said the premier was downplaying the harmful effects of colonialism, but Pallister stood by his comments. He said he meant to convey that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people often worked together to build Canada.
Pallister has not spoken to the media in the last two weeks, even as repercussions over his comments have piled up.
His Indigenous relations minister, Eileen Clarke, resigned from cabinet. Her replacement, Alan Lagimodiere, stirred up more controversy by defending some of the intentions behind residential schools. He later apologized.
Two Indigenous men, saying the government was rewriting history, also resigned from their government appointments to economic development boards.
Some members of the Progressive Conservative caucus have distanced themselves from Pallister’s remarks. Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said she cannot support words that cause further hurt to traumatized people.
When asked why he waited three weeks to demand an apology, Bowman said he had hoped one would have come earlier.
“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, then I think it falls on community leaders like myself and others to at least acknowledge publicly what a lot of people are speaking about privately right now.”
Pallister’s office again said Friday that the premier was not available to speak to the media. It issued a two-sentence written statement.
“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.”