'This is totally unacceptable': Canadians, PM Trudeau 'deeply disappointed' over Minister Carolyn Bennett's hurtful, racist text message

·3 min read

In response to a racist text message Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett sent to Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Bennett was right to apologize but he "[knows] her heart."

"What Minister Bennett did was wrong, it was hurtful and of course I’m deeply disappointed," Trudeau said. "She did the right thing by apologizing because it was the wrong thing to do."

"As a government, as ministers, as Canadians we need to be focused on the work that needs to happen for Indigenous people across this country who have been going through extremely difficult times, not just these past weeks but over years and generations."

On Thursday, Wilson-Raybould posted a screenshot of a text message she received from Bennett that read "Pension?" in response to a tweet calling on the prime minister to stop "selfish jockeying for an election" and take more action on his promised reconciliation with Indigenous people.

"I spoke with [Bennett] this morning," Trudeau said. "I know how hard she has worked and continued to work on this important file...and we both understand that there is now even more work for her to do, and I know we will do it together."

"Mistakes like this are hurtful and nudge us in the wrong direction instead of steadily moving in the right direction."

"I let interpersonal dynamics get the better of me and sent an insensitive and inappropriate comment, which I deeply regret and shouldn’t have done," the statement Bennett posted on Twitter reads.

In an open letter the The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is calling for the immediate resignation of Bennett as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

"With a single word – 'pension' – you not only decided to perpetuate a damaging racial stereotype, that Indigenous peoples are lazy and only financially motivated- but dismissed the pressing, overarching issue of residential schools, missing and murdered children, and Indigenous rights," the letter reads.

"Your implying that MP Wilson-Raybould’s fight for equality and justice is only motivated by a pension is categorically untrue, misogynistic, and condemnable... UBCIC is especially disturbed that you, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations who has a mandate of the highest order to protect and advance Indigenous Title, Rights, and welfare, would resort to a low-handed attempt to shame and insult an Indigenous woman and fellow Member of Parliament."

Several Canadians commented on the text message and the minister's apology, including many who believe it does not go far enough.