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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Top cop faulted for native drinking 'slur'

REGINA (CP) -- The B.C. solicitor general's reaction to a drunk-driving poster featuring Premier Gordon Campbell raised the ire of aboriginal groups and brought a mild rebuke from Saskatchewan's premier Tuesday.

Both the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations came out Tuesday with harsh criticism for Rich Coleman.

Coleman was reacting Monday to the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union's decision to use Campbell's smiling police mug shots on a poster which reads: Don't Pull a Gordon, Drive Safe.

The B.C. cabinet minister said Saskatchewan students should look to aboriginals in their own backyard for bad examples of alcohol abuse.

"There's lots of things that they can find in Saskatchewan to point to issues in and around drinking and driving," Coleman said.

"They could find all kinds of issues within their significant aboriginal community that they could be focusing on FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) issues in and around alcohol all kinds of things that people in Saskatchewan could be focusing on."

Stewart Phillip, president of the B.C. Indian Chiefs called Coleman's remark a racial slur, while Lawrence Joseph, vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, called it irresponsible.

"How in the hell can we actually put a negative spin to the whole process of university students trying to do this work and blame aboriginal people for driving the B.C. premier to drink?" Joseph asked.

"It's funny. It's ludicrous. It's irresponsible."

Joseph said alcohol abuse is not confined to First Nations people.

"I'm aboriginal, and I'm First Nations people that he refers to, and I can't remember the last drink I've had. I think it was probably about three decades ago."

"To stereotype me as one of those people he is talking about, I think, is rather irresponsible. For a high-profile politician to . . . address concerns here with an uninformed opinion is rather ludicrous."

Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert said he only heard Coleman's remarks on TV and that, at first glance, they appeared to be "unfortunate."

"I think you should not single out any group," Calvert said.

"Every part of our nation is dealing with issues of fetal alcohol syndrome, of all people who abuse substances."

Coleman toned down his remarks Tuesday when he said he didn't mean to offend anyone.

"Certainly it wasn't my intention to slur anybody," he said.

"If somebody felt that way, I sincerely apologize for it. But the point I was trying to make was that the students in Saskatchewan could maybe look within their own province as to where they might be able to help people."

Coleman said he has recently attended sessions with police and other groups that have highlighted the social pressure brought to bear by alcohol and fetal alcohol syndrome within aboriginal communities in B.C. and other provinces.

Campbell was picked up by Maui police for drinking and driving during a Hawaiian vacation earlier this year. After pleading no contest, he was ordered to pay fines and fees totalling $913 US, complete a 14-hour alcohol assessment program and be assessed for substance abuse.

The University of Saskatchewan poster is the latest in a series of strange places where Campbell's mug shots have shown up.

Since his arrest, Internet sites have popped up marketing the photos on everything from T-shirts to thong underwear.

Student union vice-president Blair McDaid said he can't believe how big the story of the poster has become.

"We're just a students' union in Saskatchewan," McDaid said. "We didn't expect the response we got from across the country.

"I'm excited that drinking and driving is back on the minds of people."

Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press

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