WINNIPEG – The owner of a northern Manitoba fishing lodge apologized Wednesday for comments in his visitors guide that said aboriginals cannot handle alcohol.
“It was a total mistake and should not have been in there. It’s an old trip planning guide that I’ve used for like 15 years and I had no idea that that was even in there,” Brent Fleck of Laurie River Lodge said via phone from the facility near Lynn Lake.
“I’ve issued an apology to the chief down in Pukatawagan and to the natives that work for me and … it’s certainly not our opinion and not something that we want to forward in any way shape or form.”
The lodge’s Facebook page was filled with angry comments over a section of the 37-page brochure for people planning a trip to the lodge. A paragraph on page 10 of the brochure warns guests not to give alcohol to aboriginal guides.
“We take great care when hiring our staff, however the subject of native guides must be touched upon,” reads the section.
“We use Cree Indian guides from the town of Pukatawagon (sic) in northern Manitoba. They are wonderful people and fun to fish with however, like all native North Americans, they have a basic intolerance for alcohol. Please do not give my guides alcohol under any circumstances.”
Arlen Dumas, chief of the Mathias Colomb First Nation, which includes Pukatawagan, wrote a letter demanding an apology from the lodge to its aboriginal employees.
David Harper, grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents First Nations across northern Manitoba, was also outraged.
“It’s totally derogatory, totally treating us like an animal. Basically, you’re saying, ‘Do not feed the bears,’ right? ‘Don’t give alcohol to these First Nations.’
“Nobody in their right mind would say such comments.”
The wording was denounced by people posting on the lodge’s Facebook page.
“Disgusting … it speaks volumes of your own intolerance to basic intelligence,” read one comment.
“An incredible display of racism,” read another.
Harper said the Manitoba government should look into the matter to see whether it could crack down on the lodge through licensing or some other mechanism.
“In order for licences to be approved, these kind of comments should also be a factor.”
Deputy premier Eric Robinson, who is aboriginal and a former tourism minister, said an apology was necessary, but was also giving the lodge owners the benefit of the doubt.
“I think it’s an oversight on their part and perhaps they didn’t proofread what was written.”
Fleck said the offending words were being removed from the visitors guide.
“I’ve got my web guy working on totally removing that.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014