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Coun. Dan McLean 'sincerely apologizes' for past mistakes after racist videos posted on social media

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean released a video on Friday, standing next to Alice Marchand, who he said was a dear friend. After videos were posted to social media with a voice purported to be McLean’s performing a racist caricature of Indigenous people, the councillor apologized and said he had made mistakes in his past. (Facebook - image credit)
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean released a video on Friday, standing next to Alice Marchand, who he said was a dear friend. After videos were posted to social media with a voice purported to be McLean’s performing a racist caricature of Indigenous people, the councillor apologized and said he had made mistakes in his past. (Facebook - image credit)

In a Facebook post Friday, Calgary Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean wrote that he is sincerely apologizing for "mistakes in the past" after criticism followed a series of videos posted to social media that purport to involve him participating in racist mocking of Indigenous people.

In the videos posted on social media by an anonymous account, two individuals who appear to be former Alberta justice minister Jonathan Denis and political strategist Craig Chandler are seen, talking on the phone to an unnamed and unpictured person purported to be McLean.

CBC News has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the videos or a related photo that purports to show McLean sitting at a table with Denis and Chandler.

In the videos, the men perform racist caricatures of Indigenous people, at one point playing a mocking role of an Indigenous woman with an invented vulgar last name.

McLean initially said on Thursday that he had seen the video but had no recollection of the event in a message to CBC News.

But on Friday, McLean posted a video to social media, standing next to Alice Marchand, a First Nations elder whom he called a good friend. In his post, he wrote he had "made mistakes in the past" and that he "sincerely apologized," though he did not address the videos directly.

"Due to recent events that have unfolded on social media, I felt it necessary to release this statement, this video," McLean said in his Facebook video, posted Friday.

"To be just very, very clear, all my life I have always deeply admired and respected the cultures and histories of First Nations people, Métis and Indigenous."

McLean said one of his first girlfriends was Indigenous, adding he had good friends who were also Indigenous.

"I, too, hope for a brighter future, one where politicians, political operatives, media, the Twitterati, maybe quit using religion and culture to divide us," he said.

"When now more than ever, we need to work together towards our path towards reconciliation, a brighter future and prosperity for all of us."

Marchand, who said she is a member of the Okanagan First Nation, called for people to settle their differences in a positive way and thanked McLean for what he had done for her personally.

On Friday, Ward 9 Coun. Gian Carlo-Carra said he didn't think McLean's statements in the video released Friday constituted an apology.

"But before anyone — and particularly a leader — can truly apologize, they must confront and share the truth of why they, or anyone, might engage in such behaviour in the first place," he wrote in a statement. "I call on my colleague to take those steps on his journey towards offering an apology."

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott also pushed back against the approach taken by McLean.

"Nowhere in this video is there an actual acknowledgement that wrong was done. Instead, there is a claim of long-time respect and admiration," he wrote on Twitter. "This would be in direct opposition to the 'events that unfolded on social media.'"

Asked about the incident during a media scrum on Friday, Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she had reached out to McLean on Thursday to give him her perspective on the situation, adding she had yet to review McLean's recent statement.

Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said this incident will make it difficult for Indigenous communities in Alberta to have trust in government officials. He said he hopes the city will take action toward reconciliation rather than just discuss it.

"I'm hoping all this talk of moving forward is not just talk," he said.

In response to McLean's apology video, Crowfoot said the councillor's words "meant nothing" to him.

"I don't care about an apology. I don't want to hear anything from Coun. McLean."

Previous series of videos

Denis and Chandler were also purported to be pictured in a separate series of videos posted to social media that also involved racist caricatures of Indigenous people in late September.

At that time, Denis said he had no recollection of those videos, though he apologized "if they were real."

He said it was possible this happened years ago while under the influence of alcohol, but added he had not overused alcohol in some time. Denis was Alberta's justice minister under the Progressive Conservative government from 2012 to 2015.

After the new series of videos were released, Denis' law firm Guardian Law Firm on Thursday disputed their authenticity in local news outlets, though they did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

"We now have evidence that these videos are being doctored. The police are engaged," said the email, shared with both the Calgary Herald and The Western Standard.

At the time of the release of the initial videos, Chandler had been working as a phone bank contractor for Premier Danielle Smith's campaign. Smith fired Chandler, calling the videos appalling.

Chandler, for his part, said the videos were a reference to the notorious audiotape Brocket 99, a 1980s fake radio show produced in Lethbridge, Alta., based on racist stereotypes of First Nations people.

"Some comedy is not politically correct, but this is a private function of my close friends. The video was taken by a close friend, I thought," he said at the time.

"Quite frankly, this cancel culture is killing society … I should be able to joke on an issue in the confines of my own home."