The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is calling on Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to resign following a text she sent to Jody Wilson-Raybould, which Bennett has acknowledged was “inappropriate.”
Wilson-Raybould, Independent MP for Vancouver-Granville, is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation in B.C. She tweeted her horror following the discovery of 751 unmarked residential school graves in Saskatchewan. In the same tweet, she added that “no one really wants” an election right now.
Bennett, in a text that linked to that tweet, sent a single-word message to Wilson-Raybould: “Pension?”
Now, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is calling on Bennett to step down from her cabinet role.
“UBCIC is deeply disturbed and disgusted by the extreme callousness, spite, and ignorance you have shown through the racist message you sent to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould on Twitter, and is calling for your immediate resignation as the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations,” read a press release from UBCIC, issued Friday.
“Instead of heeding MP Wilson-Raybould’s message with the seriousness warranted as she called for immediate and transformative action following the horrific news that another 751 unmarked gravesites have been located at a former Indian Residential School site in Saskatchewan — you decided to lash out with a colonizer’s tongue. This was a cowardly attempt to silence a powerful Indigenous voice calling out for truth, action and justice.”
Wilson-Raybould tweeted a screenshot of the text on Thursday, calling it “racist and misogynist.”
She said it shows disdain for the experiences of Indigenous people and reflects the “notion that Indigenous people are lazy and only want (money).”
“I think that we should all take pause, that we have a minister of Crown-Indigenous relations whose instinctive response is what she said to me over a text message,” Wilson Raybould said Thursday in an interview with Global News.
In a Thursday morning tweet, Bennett said she apologized to Wilson-Raybould after sending the text.
“I let interpersonal dynamics get the better of me and sent an insensitive and inappropriate comment, which I deeply regret and shouldn’t have done,” Bennett said in the tweet.
Tensions between Wilson-Raybould and other members of the Liberal cabinet date from February 2019. As Wilson-Raybould quit her post, she accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin court case. The federal ethics commissioner agreed with Wilson-Raybould’s position following a review of the scandal.
Wilson-Raybould said she had not otherwise received a text from Bennett since 2018. She added that Bennett’s fate is Trudeau’s to decide.
The UBCIC, meanwhile, said Bennett’s apology does not go far enough.
“Apart from publicly apologizing and reaching out personally to MP Wilson-Raybould, we are calling for your immediate resignation from cabinet. Any attempts at making amends for racist, misogynistic, and inappropriate rhetoric and action must also be genuine and meaningful — not shallow attempts at damage control and saving face,” the group wrote.
“Now is not the time for promises to do better. If you have an ounce of integrity, and any true respect for your relationship with Indigenous people, you will act with full accountability and immediately step down as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.”
When asked on Friday whether he believes Bennett still has a role in his cabinet going forward, Trudeau did not directly answer the question.
“What Minister Bennett did was wrong, it was hurtful and of course, I’m deeply disappointed. She did the right thing by apologizing because it was the wrong thing to do,” Trudeau said.
“As a government, as ministers, as Canadians, we need to be focused on the work that needs to happen for Indigenous people across the country who have been going through extremely difficult times.”
— with files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly