Manitoba opposition leader confronts new Indigenous minister over residential school remarks

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Manitoba’s leader of the Opposition confronted the province’s new Indigenous reconciliation minister Thursday over the new minister’s comments about residential schools.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew interrupted a press conference question-and-answer period Thursday after Alan Lagimodiere, who was shuffled into the new post an hour before, said he believed children were sent to residential schools to learn new skills.

“They thought they were doing the right thing,” Lagimodiere said of the residential school system. “In retrospect, it’s easy to judge in the past, but at the time they really thought that they were doing the right thing.”

Click to play video: 'Dr. Alan Lagimodiere on residential schools'

Dr. Alan Lagimodiere on residential schools

Dr. Alan Lagimodiere on residential schools

“From my knowledge of it, the residential school system was designed to take Indigenous children and give them the skills and abilities they would need to fit into society as it moved forward.”

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At that point, Kinew stepped in and firmly challenged the new minister’s statements.

“I cannot accept you saying what you just said about residential schools. It was the express intent of residential schools to ‘kill the Indian in the child,’” he said.

Read more:
Eileen Clarke says resignation due to ‘inappropriate words and actions’

“It is not cultural relativism, it is not revisionist history for us to say that that was wrong.”

Lagimodiere apologized immediately after the press conference.

Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said he was “appalled” by the comments made by Lagimodiere.

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“I understand that the new minister has already released a statement claiming to have “misspoke” when asked about residential schools. I can state emphatically that his statement is not enough.

“We also continue to wait for an apology from the premier for his similarly egregious statements made last week.”

Lagimodiere was shuffled into the position after Eileen Clarke, the former minister, resigned earlier this week.

Her resignation came after Premier Brian Pallister made remarks after the toppling of statues of queens Elizabeth and Victoria.

“It is not my intent to divide or be disrespectful, but I do feel transparency is required,” she posted on social media.

“Strong leadership is required to heal and bring our province and country together in harmony, it can not be done by one individual. Inappropriate words and actions can be very damaging.”

Click to play video: 'Pallister says he ‘stands by’ comments following Eileen Clarke resignation'

Pallister says he ‘stands by’ comments following Eileen Clarke resignation

Pallister says he ‘stands by’ comments following Eileen Clarke resignation

Last week, Pallister said people who came to Canada did not come to destroy things, but to build up communities.

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“The people who came here to this country, before it was a country and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build. They came to build better,” he said.

“We need to respect our heritage just as we need to respect one another…. Not to find fault, not to tear down, not to highlight every failure, but rather to realize that we’re a complex country as we are made up of complex people,” Pallister said at a July 7 news conference, where he also added that the statues would be restored.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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