AMC feels snubbed by new premier, but province says public health orders limited attendance at swearing-in

·3 min read

It appears the relationship between Manitoba’s new premier and this province’s Indigenous leadership is already off to a rocky start, after the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) said First Nations representation got the snub at this week’s swearing-in ceremony for Heather Stefanson.

On Tuesday Stefanson was sworn in as Manitoba’s 24th premier, but on the same day AMC, which represents 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba and more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in this province, released a statement saying that the new premier’s swearing-in ceremony “offended” them because of a lack of First Nations representation.

“Ms. Stefanson was sworn in (Tuesday) by Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon, and it was sadly apparent that First Nations leadership was not invited to, nor present for this historic event,” AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said.

“AMC member First Nations are offended and insulted that their leadership was not invited to the historic swearing-in of the first female premier of Manitoba.”

Dumas said in the release that he was not personally invited to the ceremony and instead watched it virtually.

Former Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who stepped away from the role in September, had an often contentious relationship with Indigenous leaders in this province while in office, and Dumas said Indigenous leaders not getting the invite on Tuesday will do nothing to start mending that relationship.

“The lack of First Nations leadership at the ceremony was an affront to repairing the broken relationship, and contradictory to the premier’s stated priority for reconciliation with First Nations,” Dumas said.

“Premier Stefanson had a great opportunity to start off on the right foot with an invitation to First Nations leadership to be present for her swearing-in.”

Dumas said he believes the only way to begin repairing the relationship between First Nations organizations and the province is to make sure Indigenous leadership is present at events like Tuesday’s swearing-in.

“Symbolically, this lack of acknowledgment or invite to this historic event today appears to be just another example of the province either ignoring First Nations in Manitoba, or charting forward without any First Nations representation in the room or at the table,” Dumas said.

“Either way, this is a very unfortunate first step for Stefanson.”

When reached for comment a spokesperson for the new premier said in an email that there were no intentional snubs of any leaders or organizations on Tuesday.

“In order to comply with public health orders and capacity limits, Premier Stefanson was joined by a small group of her family, friends, and colleagues for the swearing-in ceremony,” the spokesperson stated.

“On background, I can confirm that no government stakeholders were invited, as we simply didn’t have the space. Thus no one group or stakeholder was intentionally snubbed or left out.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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