Alberta First Nations members from Treaty Six are calling for the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney’s speechwriter for his 2013 column dismissing what he called the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system.
“Any government with an interest in building trust with Indigenous communities must hold their employees accountable for blatantly discriminating against Indigenous peoples, especially when working to achieve reconciliation,” reads a statement released by the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations on Friday.
Kenney speechwriter Paul Bunner has been under fire this week after a series of columns and articles he wrote from the late 1990s to 2016 resurfaced.
In the articles, Bunner dismissed the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system and said Indigenous youth could be “ripe recruits” for violent insurgencies.
In subsequent articles released by Alberta’s Opposition NDP, Bunner also referred to an Alberta First Nation as an “oppressive, collectivist regime.”
In the statement, Treaty Six said it was the “highest disgrace” for a government official to disparage one of the greatest tragedies in the community’s history.
The statement goes on to criticize Bunner’s contention that Indigenous youth could be “ripe recruits” for insurgencies, calling that statement dehumanizing.
“Paul Bunner’s article was published after the Indian Residential School apology in 2008, and it is clear that he does not have the ability to see past his own privilege and prejudice to apologize for insulting our Indian residential school survivors and their children,” the statement reads.
“Upholding the honour of the Crown should mean immediately firing the government staffer Paul Bunner.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Treaty No. 6 Territory<br>The Confederacy of Treaty Six Chiefs demands the resignation of Paul Bunner for referring to the Indian Residential Schools as a “bogus genocide story”<a href=”https://t.co/aM2JMDKBa6″>https://t.co/aM2JMDKBa6</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/treaty6?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#treaty6</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/abpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#abpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ResidentialSchools?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ResidentialSchools</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PressRelease?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PressRelease</a> <a href=”https://t.co/kpMTZK9mzU”>pic.twitter.com/kpMTZK9mzU</a>
CBC News has reached out to a spokesperson in the premier’s office for comment. On Friday, a spokesperson said that Bunner’s views had evolved over time.
‘I’m just appalled’
Marlene Poitras, regional chief in Alberta for the Assembly of First Nations, called Bunner’s statements “disgusting” and said he should resign.
Bunner’s articles, she said, discuss First Nations, homosexuality, women’s rights, “and the list goes on and on.”
“The premier should take heed of the calls for his resignation and release him immediately,” Poitras said.
Cora Voyageur, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and a professor specializing in Indigenous sociology at the University of Calgary, is herself a residential school survivor.
She said she was shocked to read Bunner’s comments regarding residential schools, especially given the headway she feels the Kenney government has made with Indigenous communities in Alberta.
“I believe that the former government, the Rachel Notley government, made a lot of headway with the Indigenous community, and there was momentum there. I think that Kenney is trying,” Voyageur said. “But I think that Paul Bunner should be let go…. What the facts have shown is that these articles have come out over a number of years, and his stance has remained the same.
“They are just unhelpful to a regime that is trying to reach out to the Indigenous community.”