South Peace News
The Town of High Prairie will be issuing a carefully worded statement on its website against comments made at a September meeting by Town of Slave Lake Councillor Joy McGregor.
Council decided at its Nov. 10 meeting to make a statement, albeit not unanimous, after inappropriate and racist comments were made as viewed by the Indigenous community.
Among McGregor’s statements regarding the homeless, she said, “We need to stop being so nice to them, we need to stop feeding them and need to stop doing all these wonderful things” [for the Indigenous homeless] as elements in her proposed plan to “get these people home” to their “settlements” and “communities”.
Town of High Prairie Councillor Michael Long brought forward the issue saying council had to take a stand and support High Prairie’s Indigenous community.
Long called McGregor’s comments “callous” and “racist” and wondered how she could say such things while sitting on traditional Sawridge Cree Nation land.
Long then called for McGregor’s dismissal on the Children’s Resource Council.
“To have that person on that board, she isn’t the right person to sit on that board.”
He added he was confident the business community in Slave Lake was not happy with McGregor’s comments, which prompted Driftpile Cree Nation to economically boycott the town, and call for its band residents to do the same.
Long also criticized Slave Lake’s council.
“Sadly, the silence of the majority of council has gone unnoticed.”
Long added High Prairie town council has tried hard to work with the Indigenous community near High Prairie.
“I think it’s important we send a letter. We do not support the statements of the councillor [McGregor] or the mayor [Tyler Warman].
“We support equality and respect.”
Councillor Brian Gilroy said he watched the video and noted one councillor opposed McGregor’s statements.
“Yes, they were perpetuating stereotypes,” added Gilroy, using the example of stealing and drinking sanitizer.
He added the letter should ask for an apology.
“As well-intentioned as she might have been, her wording was atrocious,” said Gilroy.
Councillor Donna Deynaka noted McGreg- or issued an apology.
“This is an issue for Slave Lake and their council to deal with,” she said.
Mayor Brian Panasiuk agreed, saying High Prairie had no right to dictate to Slave Lake who should serve on the CRC, in reference to Long’s desire to have McGregor removed.
And as far as a letter, Panasiuk said, “Our neighbours do know what we represent.”
Councillor Judy Stenhouse agreed with Panasiuk that High Prairie had no right to tell Slave Lake to remove a councillor.
Councillor Arlen Quartly was a bit sympathetic to McGregor.
“Everybody says stupid things. It’s none of our business. We can learn from it. Our local community understands what we’re doing.
“I’m not for [sending] a letter…it’s not the right thing to do. If you want to watch and learn from that you can.”
“I agree,” said Deynaka.
Panasiuk made it clear High Prairie could not be seen as supporting what was said.
“What is our role?” he asked. “How would a letter from us be received.”
“We try at least to take a position,” said Long. “It’s important we take a stand. We see them as equals, not ‘these people.’”
“Do we have to send a letter?” asked Stenhouse. “Do our actions not speak louder than words?”
“We need to make a statement,” said Gilroy. “We need to make a firm statement.”
CAO Rod Risling suggested a middle ground to not write a letter, but to post an official statement against the statements of McGregor on the Town’s website.
A motion to post the statement passed with Quartly and Stenhouse opposed. The statement had not been posted yet the morning of Nov. 13.