'An attitude out of the 1950s': Alberta MLA reproached for comments about Indigenous people
"In no manner are these statements a proper or respectful representation of all constituents in the Cardston-Siksika area," said Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, who also called for Dave Schneider to make amends.
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EDMONTON — An Alberta legislature member is apologizing for saying Indigenous people don't tend to vote and when "these people" do engage in politics they only want to talk to the prime minister.
Dave Schneider, the United Conservative member for the southern Alberta riding of Little Bow, has apologized on Twitter for comments he made recently to media in his constituency.
"Apologies to any offended by my choice of words," Schneider posted Tuesday. "Certainly was not my intent. It continues to be a privilege to represent all constituents since being elected. Encourage all to be engaged in our democracy."
He did not reply to a request for an interview.
Schneider is a first-term legislature member and serves as the Opposition's agriculture and forestry critic. In a story published last week in the Vauxhall Advance, Schneider is quoted expressing concerns about changes in his constituency that will take effect in the next election in 2019.
Schneider's sprawling rural seat includes the Siksika reserve and is being expanded to include the Blood reserve as well.
"Not that that's bad, but these people don't traditionally vote, and how is the population going to get engaged in this political system in the province?" Schneider told the newspaper.
"The Indigenous people generally like to speak to the most important person in Canada, like the prime minister."
Alberta's Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan and Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation had called for Schneider to make amends. They said his comments were improper and disrespectful.
"In no manner are these statements a proper or respectful representation of all constituents in the Cardston-Siksika area (Little Bow), which includes thousands of Indigenous people," Alexis posted on Twitter.
He said he took particular offence to the reference "these people."
Feehan said at the legislature that Schneider has missed a groundswell of political engagement by First Nations.
"Somehow an MLA who lives right in the core of Alberta hasn't any clue as to what's transpired in the Indigenous community over the last 50 years," said Feehan. "This is truly an attitude out of the 1950s."
In his interview, Schneider also said it's difficult to meet constituents because of access restrictions on reserves.
Feehan said he would be happy to help.
"There's nothing in the Indian Act that says you can't talk to the people in those communities. All of our MLAs do," he said. "If he's worried about being on the reserve without permission of the chief and council, it's a phone call away.
"Tell him I'm more than happy to supply him a list of phone numbers if that is something that would facilitate his first little foray into the Indigenous community."
Schneider won the constituency overall as a member of the former Wildrose party in the 2015 election, but fared poorly at the four Siksika polling stations. He received 25 votes compared with 332 for the leading vote-getter on the reserve, Bev Muendel-Atherstone of the NDP.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation was in the Little Bow constituency.