VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Calls are growing for the resignation of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in the wake of an inappropriate text message she sent to Indigenous MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.
In an open letter sent Thursday night, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs added its voice to those 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,” the letter reads.
Wilson-Raybould revealed earlier in the day that after she sent a tweet, calling on the prime minister to take action instead of worrying about an election in the wake of the discovery of more unmarked graves at a residential school in Saskatchewan, she received a text from Bennett asking, “Pension?”
Racist & misogynist text from @Carolyn_Bennett #215+
Reflects notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy & only want $
Shows disregard, disdain, & disrespect for Indigenous peoples, as in our history
— Jody Wilson-Raybould 王州迪 Vancouver Granville (@Puglaas) June 24, 2021
The message has drawn widespread criticism.
“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 (sic) implying that MP Wilson-Raybould’s fight for equality and justice is only motivated by a pension is categorically untrue, misogynistic, and condemnable,” the UBCIC added in its letter.
It echoes Wilson-Raybould’s comments that called Bennett’s text racist, with the UBCIC adding Bennet was hypocritical and betrayed 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,” the letter reads.
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
“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.”
The Crown-Indigenous Relations minister issued an apology hours after Wilson-Raybould called her out, with Bennett saying she also reached out to the Vancouver Granville MP 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,” Bennett’s 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
It appears the prime minister isn’t going to demand Bennett’s resignation. Justin Trudeau says he spoke with Bennett on Friday and feels it’s enough that she has apologized to Wilson-Raybould.
“She did the right thing by apologizing because it was the wrong thing to do. As a government, as ministers, as Canadians, we need to be focused on the work that needs to happen,” Trudeau said.
“I know her heart, I know the efforts she has put in over years on this. And we both understand that there is now even more work for her to do. And I know we will do it together,” he added.
Trudeau says he is “disappointed” by Bennett’s actions.
With files from Dean Recksiedler