Chief Bobby Cameron, who leads the umbrella group the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, took exception on Wednesday to suggestions by Premier Brad Wall that racism is not a problem unique to Saskatchewan.
Chief Cameron said that approach ignores the ugly undercurrent that has threatened to explode since a rancher was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a young aboriginal man. He said an education program for the young is the best way toward a future of reconciliation in Saskatchewan, which his organization says has more residential school survivors than any other province.
Chief Cameron said he will meet with Mr. Wall to discuss the idea, but did not say when.
He said the province’s efforts to date have not been sufficient.
“We have to ramp up our efforts on a more consistent basis and offer [anti-racism education] in the school curriculum whether it’s weekly or daily,” he said.
“We have to see what we can do to begin educating the next generation. Right now, it’s going to be hard to change opinions and minds of, let’s say, some of those 40- to 70-year-old people,” he said. “They’re never going to change.”
Earlier this week, Mr. Wall objected to reports of racism in his province.
“I’ve seen some of the commentary that [racism is] somehow is unique or has a greater presence in our province. Sadly, it has a presence right across the country,” he said.
Mr. Wall said he would welcome a discussion of the FSIN’s education proposals, but he noted the Saskatchewan schools are already teaching about treaties, and will soon be teaching about the residential schools. Still, he said more could be done.
He said the younger generation, including his own children, seem to have more enlightened views on race. “It’s changing. That’s because the school system has been a part of the process. It needs to continue to be a part of the process.”
On Aug. 9, Colten Boushie, 22, was shot after he and three other people drove onto a farm near Biggar, west of Saskatoon. They were returning home to the Red Pheasant Cree Nation after going swimming, and had to seek help after getting a flat tire. Gerald Stanley, 54, the owner of the property, has been charged with second-degree murder.
The case prompted a wave of racist social-media posts, which Mr. Wall has condemned. One post by a councillor with the Rural Municipality of Browning to a Saskatchewan farmers’ group Facebook page said Mr. Stanley’s “only mistake was leaving three witnesses,” referring to the others with Mr. Boushie.
Chief Cameron, whose group represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said he understands there is racism across Canada, but he is focused on doing right by Saskatchewan.
“This is where we live,” he said.
Earlier this week, reporters asked Mr. Wall why he removed Jennifer Campeau from cabinet. She was the first First Nations’ member of his cabinet, and had been minister of central services.
Mr. Wall suggested Ms. Campeau’s background was not the reason he had put her in cabinet, adding that he wants her to work on the First Nations file now. “Here is an excellent example to young aboriginal people in terms of her education, in terms of her career,” he said.
The Premier said he has asked her to go into schools and focus on First Nations student achievement if the boards agree to it.