Political expert says it’s too soon to know impact of “drunken natives” comments
WINNIPEG – The campaign for mayoral candidate, Gord Steeves, took an unwanted turn Friday when controversial comments made by his wife on Facebook four years ago, resurfaced on social media.
In the February, 2010 post, Lorrie Steeves’ wrote she was “really tired of getting harassed by the drunken native guys in the skywalks. We need to get these people educated so they can go make their own damn money instead of hanging out harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money. We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry asses on welfare, so shut the f**k up and don’t ask me for another handout!”
The comments were tweeted by @DarlingDarleneJ who wrote she had gone through Steeves’ Facebook page. That twitter account was opened in 2012 but rarely used until today.
When reached by Global News by phone, Lorrie Steeves would not comment on the post, but late Friday emailed the following statement and apology: “In 2010 while I was working downtown I was regularly harassed for money and often put in a position where I feared for my safety. One day in particular 4 years ago was very bad and out of frustration I vented on my personal facebook page. I feel terrible about these comments. I am terribly sorry and I apologize. I do not clear my facebook posts or status updates with my husband.”
Michael Champagne, who founded Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, would like Lorrie to take her apology a step further and spend some time with him in the North End.
“We can explain what it is like from our perspective to experience homelessness and deal with addictions,” said Champagne.
He hopes the negative Facebook comments do not overshadow all the good work he feels is being done within the Aboriginal community.
“We as indigenous young people in this city are trying as hard as we can to break those stereotypes but we need the rest of Winnipeg to come along so they can actually change,” Champagne told Global News.
The controversy falls on the same day Gord Steeves was making a campaign promise on his plans to get tough on downtown vagrancy. He’s pledged if elected as mayor he would flood the city centre with additional police cadets at certain times of the month.
“We want to ensure the focus is at perfect the right time and on the right days,” said Steeves. “Everybody understands that there are certain days during the month social assistance cheques, where the arrest rates and intoxication rates are high.”
It could be tough for Steeves to distance himself from his wife’s Facebook comments.
“It doesn’t look good on a serious candidate for mayor,” said Christopher Leo, an urban politics expert. “He is back peddling 100 miles an hour trying to get out of the way of this.”
Leo says it is too soon to know what impact the comments could have on his campaign.
“I am not ready to give up on Winnipeggers,” said Leo. “I am not sure they will flock to the polls to vote against Aboriginal people.”
Global News tried repeatedly to contact the mayoral hopeful but telephone calls were not returned
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