Winnipeg mayoral candidate’s comments about Indigenous men condemned

First Nations leaders and rival candidates are condemning remarks made by a Winnipeg man who wants to be mayor.

Mayoral candidate Don Woodstock said Indigenous men need to do more to stop violence against women.

He stands by the remarks made at a mayoral forum which garnered backlash and demands for an apology.

Surrounded by supporters outside city hall, mayoral hopeful Robert-Falcon Ouellette, held a news conference to denounce the comments made by Woodstock.

Ouellette, who didn’t hear the remarks himself, said he learned about what was said through the media.

“Some comments were made which were extremely inappropriate, racist, unfortunate,” Ouellette said.

 It happened during a forum hosted by the Council of Women of Winnipeg Thursday night at John Osborne veterans club which 10 of 11 mayoral candidates attended.

It was a forum focused on issues of safe and affordable access to transit and ways to improve safety for women.

Brenda Buleziuk, council president and forum organizer, said Woodstock’s remarks came after a different candidate brought up the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“When it came to him his remark was he felt Indigenous men should look into it and we were all kind of surprised by that comment,” Buleziuk said.

Woodstock said he has no regrets and stands by his comments.

“Chiefs, elders – they have a responsibility in playing a very significant role where murdered and missing women are concerned in terms of the men in that society,” Woodstock said Friday.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak called the remarks ignorant and uninformed and urged Woodstock to apologize and to reconsider his decision to run for mayor.  The grand chief said many First Nations men are working to reclaim cultural teachings and to end gender-based violence.

Deputy Grand Chief Cornell McLean of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called Woodstock’s comments appalling and demanded an apology.

McLean said the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is systemic and societal, linked to the violent impacts of colonization, assimilation and the removal of First Nations children from their homes.

“He should think before he speaks,” McLean said.  “Violence happens everywhere, not only for First Nations men.  It happens all over the place, right, so we’re the first ones to put the curb to it in terms of getting healing.”

Ouellette said Woodstock should know better.

“I must say I’m very surprised,” Ouellette said.  “I think sometimes saying you’re sorry is an appropriate reaction.”

Grand Chief Settee said comments like Woodstock’s do nothing to improve public safety in Winnipeg, which has the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada.  Settee said such remarks only create division and spread misinformation.

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