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Calgary councillor issues statement after racist videos allegedly include his voice

Click to play video: 'Calgary councillor issues statement after racist videos allegedly include his voice'
Calgary councillor issues statement after racist videos allegedly include his voice
WATCH: Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean is speaking out about a video circulating online that appears to show him mocking Indigenous people. McLean said he is apologizing for past mistakes. Adam MacVicar reports. – Oct 28, 2022

A Calgary city councillor who was alleged to be in a video that included racist stereotypes and mocking of Indigenous peoples issued a video statement on Friday.

But that councillor’s colleagues are saying the statement is not an apology. And the chief of a nearby First Nation doesn’t want to hear one.

“All my life, I have always deeply admired and respected the cultures and histories of First Nations people, Métis and Indigenous — since one of my first girlfriends, through some good friends from Rae-Edzo, Northwest Territories, to many families that I got to know from the four bands from Maskwacis, and of course lots of good people here that live on Treaty 7 lands,” Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean said in a video posted to social media.

In 2005, the name Rae-Edzo was changed to Behchokǫ̀.

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McLean said he hopes “for a brighter future, one where politicians, political operatives, the media, the Twitterati maybe quit using religion and culture to divide us” and urged collaborative work “towards a path towards reconciliation.”

In the video, McLean is seen standing with Alice Marchand, who identified herself as a member of the Okanagan First Nation and McLean identified as a “dear friend and spiritual advisor.”

Marchand, a Ward 13 resident, thanked McLean for serving as councillor. She also urged a settling of differences “in a positive way… as we need to learn to get along as we go through our journey of life.”

Friday’s video comes days after a set of videos was posted on social media showing a number of men sitting around a table using vulgarities, mocking an Indigenous person and the pronunciation of Indigenous last names. Some believe one voice in the videos was that of McLean, but his image is not shown with the voice. The posts on social media also include former justice minister Jonathan Denis and political strategist Craig Chandler.

Global News has been unable to verify the authenticity of the pictures or the videos, or when they were taken.

Click to play video: '‘Zero recollection’: Calgary councillor denies knowledge of racist comments captured on video'
‘Zero recollection’: Calgary councillor denies knowledge of racist comments captured on video

On Thursday, McLean told Global News he had “zero recollection of that event.” Denis’ law office told Global News it has evidence the videos are being doctored and they have engaged police. Chandler did not respond to requests for comment from Global News.

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Michelle Robinson, an Indigenous woman, activist and podcast host, said the videos are one in an ongoing series of disappointments from “white men in power, being drunk, saying racist and sexist things, and other men being in the same circle allowing it to perpetuate.

“It is absolutely no surprise to me. I have seen zero action when it comes to reconciliation and anti-racism training, and Indigenous education,” Robinson told Global News. “This is just a continuation of the bigger issue of racism and sexism against our people.”

Robinson said the racist video was another example of violence against Indigenous peoples and wants to see McLean resign.

“My daughter is in school in this city, and this is the thing she has to grow up in because our society has chosen not to change,” she said.

Siksika First Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said he doesn’t want to hear an apology from McLean or anyone who was in the video.

“It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. And it’s also important that what you say is consistent with what you do,” Crowfoot said.

“I’m not looking for an apology from these guys,” Crowfoot said. “‘Oh no, it was taken out of context.’ No. It wasn’t taken out of context. It was clear in what I saw: it was definitely derogatory, to say the least.”

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Ouray said he and his council have worked hard to develop relationships with governments outside the Blackfoot confederacy, of which Siksika is a member.

On Oct. 17, Calgary city council visited Siksika Nation. Councillors met with Siksika’s chief and council and toured historical sites like a former residential school and the place where Treaty 7 was signed.

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge counsellor teaches reconciliation for non-Indigenous allies'
Lethbridge counsellor teaches reconciliation for non-Indigenous allies

Crowfoot suggested the recent videos have not helped intergovernmental relations.

“What’s going to happen at that level?” Crowfoot told Global News. “You ask any First Nation member, you ask any First Nations leader, they’re obviously going to be appalled by (the videos).

“But I look at the colleagues and say, ‘Are you appalled by it? And if you are, to what extent?’

“I don’t want to hear another apology. It’s too late to say ‘I’m sorry.’ We’re looking for any kind of actions.”

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On Friday at an unrelated event, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek acknowledged the impact these sorts of events have on relations with First Nations.

“We are working hard to build strong relationships with nations and when something like this happens, it compromises it. And so I would expect individuals to take accountability for their actions,” she said.

“We as a council need to make sure that we are recommitting to that journey (of truth and reconciliation). We need to recommit to the fact that we will do better in the future.”

Councillors call out their colleague

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said she was “deeply disappointed” when she heard McLean had “zero recollection” of the events portrayed in the video, calling it a “completely unacceptable response.”

The video posted to the Ward 13 councillor’s Facebook page didn’t pass muster with another councillor McLean shares the city hall horseshoe with: Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

“I do not view (McLean’s) recent video as an apology. Apologies are an essential part of any journey toward reconciliation,” Carra wrote on social media. “But before anyone – and particularly a leader – can truly apologize, they must confront and share the truth of why they, or anyone, might engage in such behaviour in the first place. I call on my colleague to take those steps on his journey towards offering a real apology.”

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Only in the written description of the video does McLean offer an apology.

“On my own personal journey I recognize that I have made mistakes in the past and for that I sincerely apologize,” he writes, while not appearing to address the videos in question directly.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott was more direct in his criticisms of his colleague’s statement.

Walcott pointed out some “commonly-used tropes” used by McLean, including having an Indigenous ex-girlfriend, having Indigenous friends, having an Indigenous person speak on McLean’s behalf, “I’m the victim” and “just get over it.”

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“Nowhere in this video is there an actual acknowledgement that wrong was done. Instead, there is a claim of long time respect and admiration,” Walcott wrote. “This would be in direct opposition to the ‘events that unfolded on social media.’”

Walcott pointed out that, in the Canadian and South African contexts, reconciliation is not a standalone term.

“It is ‘Truth and Reconciliation,” Walcott wrote. “We cannot move toward reconciliation if we choose not to deal in facts, acknowledge our actions clearly, take accountability and demonstrate through action our commitment to reconciliation.”

He also called out McLean’s apparent claim of being treated unfairly by “politicians, political operatives, the media (and) the Twitterati.”

“Yes, the treatment is so unfair. So unfair. Let’s all stop using religion and culture to divide us… by expecting accountability for an offensive video that appears to include a sitting city councillor,” Walcott wrote.

After reports of the racist videos came out Thursday, Gondek said she called McLean to share her perspective on the situation.

“You can’t be silent when things like this happen. You can’t go quiet.”

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