VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An inappropriate text message to Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett is drawing major criticism.
Wilson-Raybould shared a screenshot of the message she received Thursday from Bennett.
“Racist & misogynist text from @Carolyn_Bennett #215+,” reads the Indigenous Vancouver Granville MP’s tweet.
“Reflects notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy & only want $. Shows disregard, disdain, & disrespect for Indigenous peoples, as in our history. Conveys a strong Indigenous woman, is a bad Indig (sic) woman,” the post continues.
The text message from Bennett simply reads “Pension?”, seemingly questioning if Wilson-Raybould’s call for more federal action on Truth and Reconciliation is motivated by her re-election and related pension.
Independent MP and former Liberal @Puglaas says the Crown Indigenous Relations Minister @Carolyn_Bennett sent her a text questioning if her call for more federal action on Truth and Reconciliation is motivated by her reelection/pension #cdnpoli https://t.co/fumsy4dPfJ
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) June 24, 2021
The text sent by Bennett references Wilson-Raybould’s prior tweet, put out after the discovery of remains at another former residential school site in Canada, this time in Saskatchewan.
That tweet reads: “With the horrific news out of Saskatchewan, our collective call, again, is for concrete transformative action. @JustinTrudeau, if you care enough to make things right, stop your selfish jockeying for an election—which no one really wants—and do what you promised in 2018. #215+Broken heart.”
An MP needs to serve at least six years to qualify for their pensions. That means anyone first elected in 2015 needs to get past Oct. 19 to qualify. There is much speculation a federal election could be called as early as this summer, and it appears Bennett’s comment makes light of this.
Bennett’s text has drawn swift reaction online, with many calling for her resignation.
“This is unacceptable,” reads one tweet, echoing the sentiments of many others.
“This is from the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations on a day hundreds more unmarked graves were found at a residential school. She needs to resign,” reads another.
Bennett has since issued an apology, saying she’s reached out to Wilson-Raybould to say sorry directly.
“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,” her tweet reads.
Crown Indigenous Relations Minister @Carolyn_Bennett apologizes for a text sent to Independent Indigenous MP @Puglaas questioning if a recent call for more federal action on residential schools had something to do with her re-election/pension #cdnpoli https://t.co/jCHI1tSkZW
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) June 24, 2021
Wilson-Raybould has sat as an Independent since 2019. That came after she resigned from cabinet following claims the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her to help Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.
She was reelected in the Vancouver Granville riding that same year.
Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls for Bennett to resign
In an open letter sent Thursday night, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs is demanding Bennett resign immediately.
“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,” it reads.
“With a single word, you not only decided to perpetuate a damaging racial stereotype, that Indigenous peoples are lazy and only financially motivated- but dismissed the pressing, overarching issue of residential schools, missing and murdered children, and Indigenous rights. Your implying that MP Wilson-Raybould’s fight for equality and justice is only motivated by a pension is categorically untrue, misogynistic, and condemnable.”
UBCIC Calls for the Immediate Resignation of Carolyn Bennett as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations following Racist, Demeaning Message to Indigenous MP Jody Wilson-Raybould: "Now is not the time for promises to do better." https://t.co/UAQSBchTkQ pic.twitter.com/k2MyZnrunG
— UBCIC (@UBCIC) June 25, 2021
The letter continues to say Bennett’s text was racist and hypocritical, betraying a fundamental inability to carry out her role in cabinet.
“UBCIC is especially disturbed that you, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations who has a mandate of the highest order to protect and advance Indigenous Title, Rights, and welfare, would resort to a low-handed attempt to shame and insult an Indigenous woman and fellow Member of Parliament,” it reads.
“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.”