MLA dismissed from chamber for uttering ‘crap’ over government’s concern for Indigenous women

A Manitoba MLA was asked to leave the legislative chamber Wednesday for uttering the word “crap,” which is considered unparliamentary language in the Manitoba Legislature. 

The NDP’s Nahanni Fontaine accused the provincial government of stepping into it following the homicide of Jana Williams, whose body was found last week near the Red River. 

Fontaine said no member of the Progressive Conservative caucus contacted the Williams’ family to personally offer condolences. She said no Tory MLA expressed remorse on Twitter either, though they’re “so apt” to tweet on Orange Shirt Day, which remembers the Indigenous victims and survivors of residential schools. 

“It is indicative that they just don’t give a crap about Indigenous women and girls in this province,” Fontaine said.

WATCH | Fontaine says government doesn’t care after Williams’ death:

St. John’s MLA Nahanni Fontaine was asked to leave the legislature on Wednesday for using the word “crap” when she alleged the government doesn’t care about Indigenous women and girls. The word is considered to be unparliamentary language at the Manitoba Legislature. 0:49

Speaker Myrna Driedger asked the St. John’s MLA to apologize and take back her comments three times, but she refused.

In one instance, she was cut off.

“There’s a slaughter of Indigenous women,” she said, before Driedger stood up and called “order.” 

“I will not withdraw my comments,” Fontaine added.

After question period, she said she stands by her accusation the government is failing Indigenous people, and the language she used.

“A word,” Fontaine said. “People should be more enraged and disgusted with the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, rather than the word.”

Williams would have turned 29 just one day after her body was discovered on March 4, near the Red River at Alfred Avenue.

The police have since ruled her death as a homicide. Officers are asking anyone who saw or talked to her in recent weeks to come forward.

Police have ruled the death of Jana Williams as a homicide. (Submitted by Alaya McIvor)

Premier Brian Pallister said Fontaine was making false assertions about his government’s concern over Williams’ death.

“I think it’s shameless political behaviour to try to cast aspersions at people who weren’t at the vigil, along with her and a few dozen people there,” he said.

“I admire her effort with respect to this, but I don’t think it’s right to try to score political points using the death of a Manitoban as a lever.”

Fontaine said she wasn’t asking too much of the government to approach the family. She believes the government could find a phone number for the family faster than the hour it took the NDP, she said.

She stood up in the chamber Wednesday to ask about the government’s progress at implementing the calls for justice from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, she said.

“I was asking questions in honour of her and trying to raise awareness of MMIWG and what we see is a lack of real critical response by the Pallister government.”

Helping Indigenous people a priority: Pallister

After her ejection, Pallister told question period that Fontaine’s actions were “shameful” because “these are issues we should all be unified behind.”

He added his government is working diligently to pursue the calls for justice from the MMIWG inquiry and the recommendations of the truth and reconciliation commission. He said the province is also helping Indigenous people by advancing treaty right entitlements, improving health care and addressing homelessness. 

Fontaine will be able to return to the legislative chamber on Thursday.

The last time a MLA was ejected was 2019 when River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard refused to apologize for an outburst over the government’s treatment of senior citizens.