Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson says experience would expose premier to realities of poor housing, roads, food
· CBC News April 15, 2017
The grand chief for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak is inviting Premier Brian Pallister to live on reserve for a month to learn what life is really like for Manitoba’s remote Indigenous communities.
Sheila North Wilson is standing by earlier comments she made about systemic ignorance and racism at the provincial level and says Manitoba has a lot of learning to do to combat myths about Indigenous peoples.
“That invitation is open for him and anyone else that wants to experience what it’s like to live on reserve,” said North Wilson.
CBC has reached out to the premier’s office for reaction to North Wilson’s request and will update if we hear back.
Her invitation follows a statement she made Tuesday where she referred to Pallister’s government as the “most racist provincial government in Canada.”
On Friday, she clarified her point and accused not just Pallister’s government of being racist but called it a systemic issue across the province — saying Manitoba’s policies and bureaucracies are failing Indigenous peoples.
“We have some of the poorest housing conditions in Canada. We have high rates of children in care and illnesses that we have are on the rise,” she said.
She added if Pallister lived on reserve, he would have to live on the same money families in remote areas have to budget on as well as deal with the bad roads and food insecurity common in Manitoba’s north.
“I wish they would experience that and then see what they think afterwards.”
‘We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot’
Ideally, North Wilson said she would like to see Pallister experience life for a month in a remote, northern community but she said a lot of First Nations would vie for the chance to host the premier.
“For a day, for a week but hopefully a month —- but I doubt that’s going to happen,” she said.
The grand chief is also extending an invitation to anyone else at the provincial level who would like to learn more about living in a northern community.
“There is a lot of work that we need to do to get to a point where we’re actually trying to achieve reconciliation,” she said.
North Wilson told the premier face-to-face recently she did not like the way he characterized Indigenous communities as having high rates of chronic disease and mental illness, she said.
While statistics may bear that out, she says numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot and there’s reasons why we are sick and that we need a greater sense of hope.”