Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Sun, February 27, 2005
Councillor said what?
St. Paul politician offers apology after alleged remarks directed at natives
By KATE DUBINSKI, EDMONTON SUN
Disparaging comments about natives allegedly made by a councillor in St. Paul have touched off a storm of fury and regret in the northeastern Alberta community. "He did apologize, but the damage is done," said Saddle Lake First Nation Chief Eddy Makokis, whose band has launched a boycott of the town's businesses and is considering a human rights complaint.
The contentious quotes were reported by the St. Paul Journal on Feb. 8 and attributed to town councillor Guy Germain, speaking about a task force struck to address crime.
"Let's not beat around the bush. It's the native population ... We have some good aboriginal people. This is a small percentage," Germain is quoted telling the paper.
And "The hell we have to feel sorry for them, they are the problem."
Germain also reportedly targeted band chief Makokis: "I have yet to see the chief of Saddle Lake at one of these meetings ... Where are you, Eddy? Don't come up with this prejudice stuff. We know where the problem is coming from."
The Saddle Lake band has terminated all accounts with businesses in the town.
"It's indicative of the atmosphere in the city of St. Paul. They're so comfortable with the systemic racism that (Germain) wouldn't give comments like that a second thought," said Tracy Fleck, the band's lawyer.
St. Paul is 208 km northeast of Edmonton, about 20 minutes from the Saddle Lake reserve. Most shopping and services for the band are done in St. Paul.
"We're very concerned with the boycott," St. Paul Mayor John Trefanenko told the Sun yesterday.
"I feel strongly that we can still resolve this if we meet band council to town council, community to community," Trefanenko added.
The band, and some businesses in St. Paul, have called for Germain's resignation. He has stepped down from the Safer Community Task Force.
Germain, who did not return telephone calls yesterday, has sat on council for 12 years, said Trefanenko, and is very popular in the community.
He has apologized for the comments in local media and in a letter sent to Makokis.
But there's little mood among band members to simply forgive and forget.
"Before we go back, we need to sit down with the town council and tell them how we want to be treated ... it's discrimination," said Makokis.
The First Nation spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in St. Paul, for everything from groceries to construction, Fleck said.
"There's no reason why we can't provide those services for ourselves," she added.
Business owners and the local chamber of commerce met last week to discuss the boycott, and have made efforts to distance themselves from the comments.
"It's ridiculous to make statements like that," said chamber vice-president Ron Belzil yesterday.
"We deal with people of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities, and we have a good relationship with all of our customers."
The Saddle Lake band council is meeting with its members tomorrow to discuss how to proceed.
The idea that most Native people are criminals is a variation of the good-for-nothing, uncivilized, and savage Indian stereotypes.
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