Manitoba’s Indigenous relations minister resigns from cabinet after premier’s comments on colonial history


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Eileen Clarke has resigned as Manitoba’s Indigenous and northern relations minister after Premier Brian Pallister made comments last week that suggested the colonization of Canada was done with good intentions.

Clarke confirmed her resignation on Wednesday morning and said Pallister’s comments were a factor in that decision, although she did not specify which comments.

Clarke said she will not speak further about her resignation right now out of respect for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs election happening today.

She said she resigned Friday afternoon. Two days earlier Pallister chastised people who had been involved in tearing down statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the Manitoba legislative grounds on Canada Day, after a walk held to remember Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

“We need to respect our heritage just as we need to respect one another…. Not to find fault, not to tear down, not to highlight every failure, but rather to realize that we’re a complex country as we are made up of complex people,” Pallister said at a news conference, adding the statues would be restored.

“The people who came here to this country — before it was a country and since — didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build. They came to build better.”

Clarke was first elected as the Progressive Conservative Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for the electoral district of Agassiz in 2016 and became the minister of Indigenous and municipal relations the same year, her profile on the government’s website says. 

She was re-elected as an MLA in 2019 and remained minister of Indigenous relations until she resigned last week.

Pallister’s comments last week, which were criticized by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars as ahistorical and insensitive, marked his latest stumble on issues related to Indigenous people in Manitoba.

In 2017, he said divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people over illegal night hunting were “becoming a race war.” Pallister did not apologize for those remarks, though he later walked them back by saying he used “the wrong choice of words.”

In late 2020, the premier suggested the need to prioritize Indigenous people for COVID-19 vaccines would put Manitobans “at the back of the line” for doses if the province didn’t receive a larger proportional share of shots.

Those comments were slammed by Indigenous leaders, including Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee, who asked for an apology.

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