South Bruce Peninsula mayor resigns after ‘racist’ comments towards local First Nations

Gary Michi former Mayor of Town of South Bruce Peninsula.
Gary Michi former Mayor of Town of South Bruce Peninsula. Via Bruce County website

The Mayor of South Bruce Peninsula has stepped down after a recording of him making “racist” comments about the plans for the new Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation water treatment plant was posted online.

A statement posted on the town’s website Tuesday says that “Garry Michi has resigned as Mayor effective immediately.”

The statement went on to apologize and say that the Town of South Bruce Peninsula “does not support or agree with any of Mr. Michi’s comments posted in an audio clip on August 25, 2023.”

This comes after an audio recording was posted on SoundCloud by the user SaubleSam of what appeared to be Michi questioning the decision to invest millions in building a new water treatment plant for the Nawash First Nation, which has been under a boil-water advisory for over four years.

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“Where is this all going to end. Twenty years ago, they put a water treatment plant up for the Cape Croker, it got ruined because they didn’t maintain it. Now, we have spent $65 million up there to put hydrants and new water treatment plants and 75 per cent of those houses, I mean, they should be torn down,” Michi says in the recording.

The recording finishes off with Michi saying “why are we spending $65 million on a water treatment plant up there that’s going to last 20 years because they’re not going to look after it. Right? Just look at their home. I can understand to be poor, but you can be poor and clean.”

The Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation has been under a long-term boil-water advisory since Jan. 2019, impacting 750 people in the reserve within 264 homes.

Work is now underway on a new water treatment plant and upgrades to the existing water disruption system which will properly clean drinking water for 264 homes and 20 community buildings.

After the recording was made public, the Nawash First Nation released a statement that they were “deeply offended” by the comments which they say “show an utter disregard and lack of respect to our people and all First Nations who have been deprived of basic human rights, including the most basic need of access to clean drinking water.”

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“Mayor Michi’s comments placing the blame for the lack of adequate services for our people on Neyaashiinigmiing reveal a colonial and racist perspective about indigenous people,” the statement read.

Greg Nadjiwon, Chief of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation told Global News he was disappointed and upset by Michi’s comments but is “very pleased” with his decision to resign.

“His comments were not suitable for an age of trying to firm up relationships between the Indigenous community and the town.”

Nadjiwon says the boil-water advisory has had a great impact on his community, especially their elderly residents.

He says the current plant still runs, however he says the issue is that it’s out of date and only serves the purpose of delivering water to people houses.

“The former mayor really didn’t do any homework, he never really conversed with us about the status of the water treatment plant,” Nadjiwon told Global News.

Local media outlets reported the former mayor released a statement on Wednesday apologizing for his comments, saying, “I deeply regret the words I used during a personal conversation and the subsequent impact they have had. I want to acknowledge the harm caused by my ignorant, insensitive and poorly chosen words, and I want to sincerely apologize for the damage this has caused to the relationship between myself, the town and the First Nations community.”

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He went on to say in the statement, “I recognize that my own privilege clouded my judgement, leading me to speak without proper understanding. I make no attempt to justify this. I hope that with time and effort, I can rebuild the trust and respect that our friends and neighbours deserve.”

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