Former Manitoba Indigenous relations minister criticizes premier after stepping down from post

Eileen’s Clarke’s successor Alan Lagimodiere was immediately grilled for saying original intentions behind residential schools were not all bad

Eileen Clarke is speaking out about why she resigned as minister of Indigenous and northern relations in Manitoba.

Clarke revealed in a Facebook post Thursday morning that she resigned from her position on July 9, and that transparency is required.

“I made the decision to step down from cabinet where I felt my voice and others are not being heard,” the post reads.

“Strong leadership is required to heal and bring our province and country together in harmony, it can not be done by one individual. Inappropriate words and actions can be very damaging.”

Her resignation comes shortly after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s comments on colonialism surrounding two queen statues toppled over on Canada Day in Winnipeg.

Pallister said in a press conference shortly after Canada Day that the statues taken down would go back up, and that colonizers came to Canada to build not destroy. He stuck by those comments despite criticism from the community.

“The people who came to this country before it was a country and since, didn’t come to destroy anything. They came here to build,” Pallister said in an early July press conference.

When asked about Clarke resigning, Pallister said he would not comment on why Clarke resigned.

“Eileen has spoken about her priorities and reasons and I expect she’ll continue to as you ask her questions. I don’t feel comfortable in telling you what Eileen wants or what Eileen has to say,” he said.

In light of her resignation, the premier shuffled his cabinet Thursday morning re-naming her department and a replacement minister.

“I, Alan Dean Lagimodiere do solemnly affirm that I will duly, faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and ability perform and fulfill the duties and requirements of the office of minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern affairs,” said new minister Alan Lagimodiere at the swearing in ceremony.

A Selkirk MLA, Lagimodiere was appointed minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations.

Lagimodiere is a Metis citizen from northern Manitoba but his appointment didn’t sit well with Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand.

“Lagimodiere will not make any change at all,” he said.

Chartrand said this move is just deflection on Pallister’s part.

“All Pallister right now is trying to do for all the people listening here, he’s trying to deflect the resignation of Eileen Clarke and putting an Indigenous face in front of everybody saying I believe in reconciliation, look at what I’m doing. And we know he’s not doing nothing, so he’s just trying to deflect,” he said.

“The bricks are falling down in his kingdom and he knows there’s going to be other conservatives that are going to come at him sooner or later because they know the damage he’s caused not only to Indigenous people but to the province of Manitoba.”

In a press conference just a few minutes after being sworn in, Lagimodiere made remarks regarding residential schools.

“The residential school system was designed to take Indigenous children and give them the skills and abilities they would need to fit into society as it moved forward so,” he said.

Those comments were quickly denounced by Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew.

“I am an honorary witness for the truth and reconciliation commission, I listened to the stories of the survivors, and I cannot accept you saying what you just said about residential schools. It was the expressed intent of residential schools to kill the Indian in the child. It is not cultural relativism, it is not revisionist history, for us to say that was wrong,” Kinew said.

“Any right minded person at the time should have known that it was wrong. Many did know and speak up against it. If you are to take your job that you’ve been appointed to by Mr. Pallister seriously starting today, you have to change that thinking.”

The PC Caucus responded to Kinew in a now deleted tweet.

“The political showmanship of storming into someone else’s press conference to bully a Minister who was sworn in only 10 minutes earlier does nothing to advance that reconciliation,” the tweet read.

Lagimodiere released a statement saying he misspoke.

Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said he was appalled by the comments made by Lagimodiere.

“To hear this come from a man who has Indigenous roots himself is particularly heartbreaking. His own descendants would have been subjected to the horrors of day schools and the Sixties Scoop. The current provincial administration is obviously awash in racial bias and is beholden to a leader with an innate dislike for First Nation people,” he said in a statement.

“We expect a full explanation of how he could utter such dangerous statements as well as a full retraction of his previous comments and an apology to all First Nations and Indigenous peoples, otherwise, we cannot be supportive of this new minister.”

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