“Race card” comment leads to Liberal cabinet minister’s resignation
Perry Trimper, a cabinet minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, issued a statement Friday “acknowledging the hurt caused by his statements and saying he is stepping down as environment minister, effective immediately,” reports The Canadian Press.
The resignation came one day after a recording was released wherein Trimper can be heard accusing the Innu of Labrador of being prone to playing “the race card” to get what they want. He was immediately accused of racial profiling and subsequently stepped down. Liberal Premier Dwight Ball accepted his resignation.
Social media users expressed outrage this past weekend as Instagram posts surfaced showing what appeared to be a young white student celebrating her scholarship intended for Indigenous youth. The girl’s family says they have a legitimate claim to Indigenous ancestry based on genealogical records, but Indigenous leaders are still skeptical.
Ainsley Whynacht, an 18-year-old still in high school, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) scholarship. The scholarship required applicants to submit an essay. NSGEU states in a Facebook post that Whynacht’s looked at “how the lack of access to public services has negatively affected the lives of Indigenous people.”
On her private Instagram, Whynacht makes light about the scholarship, calling it a “random essay on treatment of indigenous kids in school” and jokes about how the scholarship selection committee didn’t notice she was the “whitest person ever.”
In another post, Whynacht is seen holding up a bottle of tanning lotion, posting “its time for ya girl to fake tan or else that’s gonna be embarrassing.”
As backlash began to pour in after her private Instagram posts were screenshotted and distributed widely on the wider social media world, Whynacht was confronted with angry responses and demands to NSGEU to rescind the scholarship she had been offered. Whynacht responded by posting that she had “said I’m sorry already” and “all I did was write an essay.”
Later, in a conversation posted to Facebook, Whynacht attempted to demonstrate her Indigenous heritage by presenting a status card from the Woodland Metis nation, a highly controversial Metis nation that has been at the center of a debate about whether their claims to Indigenous identity are legitimate.
The Woodland Metis have been contested by various Indigenous scholars and groups, having no official Government recognition or recognition by the Métis National Council. The Nova Scotia-based Eastern Woodland Metis, of which Whynacht presented status from, no longer has an active website. The Grand Chief, Mary Lou Parker, passed away in summer 2019 and there appears to be no attempt to maintain the group.
After a Supreme Court decision in 2006 expanded the scope of who could claim to be Metis, the number of people self-identifying as Metis surged by over 125 percent by 2016, with new self-described Metis groups springing up in eastern Canada.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaq activist and Professor of Political Science at Cape Breton University, notes the Eastern Woodland Metis have no connection to the cultural heritage or history of the recognized Metis of Canada. “The Metis in Nova Scotia are not actually tied to the constitutionally protected Metis. And if they are, they would be people who come to Nova Scotia and bring their status with them.”
Maloney says the creeping “raceshifting” of non-Indigenous people self-identifying as Indigenous is reflective of an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Maloney says Wynacht’s story is rooted in racism, fraud, and entitlement.
“Nobody wanted to be Indigenous when there was so much racism, and [the Government] was stealing your kids, and the odds were against you—no one was aspiring to live that reality,” Maloney says.
Maloney said she doesn’t know about whether the scholarship can legally be rescinded from Wynacht, but hopes NSGEU learns from this mistake and consults the local Indigenous community in creating future criteria for the scholarship.
“They need to include Indigenous people in these deliberations,” she says. “If they did, they’re likely to get a young person from the community who everyone is looking up to as a future leader. We know who they are. We see them. We have young people who are destined for great things if given the opportunity.”
The Post Millennial reached out to Ainsley Wynacht, and received comment from her mother who called the outrage a “non-story”.
“Ainsley is Indigenous and has provided proof,” she said. She claims the family has documentation from the Universite de Ste. Anne demonstrating their Indigenous heritage.
Ainsley’s mother says the document, a genealogical family tree, demonstrates Indigenous heritage from the Mi’kmaq nation on her mother’s and grandmother’s side.
“It confirmed that we are indigenous. We had to provide baptismal certificates for the three latest generations. We went through the church, sent the baptismal information to the university and they did the rest of the research.”
When asked to see the documentaion, Ainsley’s mother said they would provide the document to NSGEU and The Post Millennial upon the family’s return to their home from their cottage.
Jarvis Googoo, a non-practising lawyer in Halifax and a Mi’kmaq from We’koqma’q First Nation, says connection to the Mi’kmaq community is more important than simply having an ancestor or two.
“I know I am distantly Irish, but this does not make me Irish.” he says, “I know I am Mi’kmaq because that is all I know, it is all my family has been.” adding that the Whynachts, or anyone else who believed themselves to hold claim to Indigenous ancestry, needed to approach the Indigenous community—not the government.
“Some claimants say they have one ancestor from the 1800s [so that] makes them Mi’kmaq or Metis. For me, what makes me Mi’kmaq is my mother was Mi’kmaq, and my grandmother was Mi’kmaq.”
Googoo says he hopes NSGEU rescinds the scholarship, “That is scholarship money that should and could have went to an actual Mi’kmaq Indigenous person instead. And if it can’t be recinded, then going forward the NSGEU, or any other organization wants to try and ‘help,’ they need to engage with us and we can teach them how to do it right.”
The NSGEU Facebook page issued a response Friday to the online outrage in a now-deleted post.
“We are aware of the social media posts circulating about the recipient of the NUPGE Scholarship for Indigenous Students, this information has been passed on to the National Union, NUPGE, who administers this award, so they may investigate this matter further,” read part of the statement.
“It’s unfortunate that people say offensive things on social media that they end up regretting,” read the rest of the NSGEU statement.
Prior to the interview with The Post Millennial, Ainsley’s mother said she was unaware of the controversies surrounding the Woodland Metis and had enrolled her daughter and herself with them in an effort to participate more actively with what she thought was a legitimate local Indigenous group.
On her daughter’s comments, she says she knows they were “in incredibly poor judgement,” stating that she had been very upset when she saw them. On her daughter’s reasoning, Tanya says that “she was being bullied for looking ‘too white to be Indigenous’ so she posted that she’d use fake tan to not look so white.”
Ainsley wrote an apology to NSGEU late last week.
“I would like to sincerely apologize that these pictures and their captions were so grossly misinterpreted and I assure you that I meant no disrespect towards the union nor Indigenous people,” said Ainsley in her apology letter.
“The colour of my skin does not erase my heritage, or my anger towards their treatment that I wrote very passionately about in the essay that won me this scholarship,” the apology continues. “Even the suggestion that I would fake my ethnic background is truly insulting for me and is just another example of people not taking my ancestry seriously just because I do not exactly ‘look the role’, as I have been told.”
The $1,500 scholarship goes to the winner of an essay competition who is entering their first year of post-secondary education.
Ainsley’s mother also sent The Post Millennial a sample of some of the death threats Ainsley received as a result of her comments, which ranged from wishes her “family dies in a house fire” to Instagram users messaging her to “eat sh*t you useless wh*re.”
Jarvis Googoo says the threats made against the Whynachts are “plain horrible,” adding, “there is a great and peaceful way to discuss this… Our treaties were based upon peaceful friendship and that is how I like to discuss this and educate.”
The Post Millennial reached out to NSGEU and NUGPE but did not receive comment from them by the time of publication.
Canadian model and sex icon Pamela Anderson has come under fire after posting photos of herself with a Native American headdress.
The photo, released on Halloween, has been heavily ratioed, receiving nearly nine times as many replies than retweets, as many claim that Anderson is appropriating Native American culture, and that her actions as a whole are racist.
One of her critics was famed Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, who criticized Anderson not only for her headdress, but for her criticism of the seal hunt, a practice which Inuit leaders, activists, and residents of their native land say is a traditional practice of non-endangered seals, as well as a primary resource of meat for their communities. They also use the seals as a resource for insulation and clothing.
The debate around seal clubbing goes back decades. A 2002 Canadian Veterinary Medical Association report reviewed seal killing techniques (specifically, in the Atlantic Coast, not in Inuit communities) determined an improper seal kill kept the animals alive at an average of 45.2 seconds, before finally being given the final death blow. The paper considered this number humane, but noted “no interval between an animal being shot and losing consciousness will ever be acceptable to some people.”
Inuits themselves also claim that the practice is more humane than the means that other Americans obtain meat. “In places where (anti-seal activists) live, in Southern Canada and America, they torture animals, they eat tortured animals every day,” said one young Inuk in the film Angry Inuk, a 2016 documentary discussing the controversial topic.
Other celebrities have protested the seal hunt, including ex-Smiths frontman Morrissey, who boycotted performing in Canada for years until deciding to drop it last year on his latest tour.
Native headgear and controversy
Earlier this year, Dior’s new Eau du toilette “Sauvage” had its commercial pulled following a similar controversy.
The commercial, which was actually a preview to an extended cut, released a preview of its Native American-inspired fragrance campaign for “Sauvage,” to very little positive public reaction.
Despite the company’s collaboration with Native American consultants and careful attention to tradition, the brand faced heavy backlash from followers stating that the campaign was “racist” and “offensive.”
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Depp said that he wished the full video could have been released, as people would see more of the context surrounding the short.
“A teaser obviously is a very concentrated version of images and there were objections to the teaser of the small film,” Depp explained. “The film has never been seen.”
The commercial, which features Depp on an electric guitar playing Link Wray’s “Rumble” while an Indigenous man fancy dances, was eventually pulled due to its perceived insensitivity.
Anderson made headlines last week for asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to serve prisoners vegan meals to save money.
The RCMP have announced that they believe that this summer’s wildfires in Alberta were the result of arson.
The McMillan fire, which was deliberately set consumed a total of 2,730 square kilometres.
Several communities were affected by the fire and forced to evacuate including Wabasca, Bigstone Cree and Peerless Trout First Nations.
The fire burned for nearly two months from May 18th to July 1st before it was finally brought under control by firefighters.
Investigators and the government are seeking help to identify who the individual responsible for the fire was and are asking potential witnesses to come forward.
“To the families affected by this wildfire who were evacuated, and to the forest industry who suffered losses, we will find the person responsible for the McMillian wildfire,” said Devin Dreeshen, the province’s minister of agriculture and forestry.
The United Conservative government has brought forward Bill 14 as part of its mandate to improve relations with Alberta’s Indigenous people.
As part of this pledge, Indigenous nations will be given $1 billion in loan guarantees to help kickstart Indigenous involvement in crucial resource projects. Over the next four years, the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (IOC) hopes to play a vital role in carrying out that for the province.
The IOC will not explicitly provide capital for start-ups projects but will instead focus on providing the technical and financial expertise needed to start a business and access any existing grants.
The IOC, said Premier Jason Kenney, will allow Indigenous people to “get in the game and benefit from the resources that lie under the lands that were first inhabited by their ancestors.”
Alberta’s Indigenous community deserves a government that will help create opportunities, generate prosperity, and renew the entrepreneurial spirit for many struggling to make ends meet.
The IOC was one of Premier Kenney’s campaign promises made leading up to his election victory over Rachel Notley and the NDP this past spring.
This past summer, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson met with more than 150 key stakeholders to discuss the benefits of a renewed partnership under the IOC.
In a statement, Minister Wilson said, “This new Crown corporation is a bold and innovative way of building relationships with Indigenous communities to get natural resource projects moving forward and get Alberta’s economy back to work. The returns on these investments can help fund the community programs and services the Indigenous communities want.”
Echoing his comments, Premier Kenney explained, “We want to empower Indigenous communities so they can lift their people out of poverty and become full partners in prosperity. An Alberta that remains strong and free is one where all can take full advantage of its abundance of natural resources that have enriched this province for decades.”
Indigenous leaders weigh in
Herb Lehr, the president of the Metis Settlements General Council, was also on board with the new initiative saying, “The Métis people of Alberta have long been involved in the resources sector, and are pleased to see this type of proactive work from the province.”
Calvin Helin, the president of Eagle Spirit Energy Holding Ltd and long-time advocate for Indigenous involvement in the resource sector, stated, “It is no secret that there is immense interest from the First Nations of this country to own big resource sector projects. This initiative will go a long way to accomplish that.”
While many leaders were on board with the change, including Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, some, like Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, are skeptical.
While Noskey has yet to comment on anything specifically, he has expressed his concerns with the UCP before their election earlier this year.
Arthur Noskey is taking a step back approach to the IOC agreement, and this is not the first time Noskey has been skeptical of the Kenney g