OTTAWA — Indigenous singer-songwriter Jeremy Dutcher is done with People’s Party of Canada (PPC) Leader Maxime Bernier.
The 2018 Polaris Prize winner made his thoughts known at this year’s awards gala in Toronto Monday after he praised artists for coming together to share a stage, and their stories, to challenge “narratives of separateness.”
“I woke up this morning and I opened my phone and I saw that the People’s Party of Canada was given a leadership debate spot,” said the musician, a member of Tobique First Nation. A chorus of boos erupted from the audience.
He called Bernier’s slate of candidates representative of “an anti-immigrant party in this country,” and asked the Beauce incumbent in French to “stop.”
“Enough,” Dutcher said. “You do not come to this country and then tell us when it’s closed. We always welcome in this land. That is how we do it. That is how the matriarchs have done it.”
Watch: 5 things to know about Maxime Bernier
The Polaris Prize is one of the country’s top music awards given to the “best Canadian album of the year based on artistic merit without regard to genre.” This year, the prestigious prize was awarded to Brampton, Ont. rapper Haviah Mighty for her album “13th Floor.”
Dutcher won the award’s $50,000 cash prize last year for his trailblazing album “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa,” in which he blended old Maliseet recordings and recorded tracks in Wolastoq, his first language.
Bernier was given the green light by leaders’ debate commissioner and former governor general David Johnston Monday to join two federal debates next month. The Conservative leadership runner-up quit Scheer’s party last year to start the PPC.
The former cabinet minister has since earned notoriety for party organizers soliciting far-right groups for support, posing for a picture with white supremacist Paul Fromm, calling 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg “mentally unstable,” and promoting dog-whistle policies that target immigrants and refugees.
Tory leader not fazed about Bernier’s debate invite
Johnston’s decision comes weeks after the commission’s initially excluded Bernier from the debates because it was unclear if he would satisfy the eligibility criteria.
Bernier told a room of supporters in Saint John, N.B. Monday that he was having a good day because the leaders’ debate commission recognized the PPC as a “real national political party.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Johnston stating he’s “troubled” by the decision to include Bernier in the federal leaders’ debates. Bernier has “courted racists to run for his party,” Singh wrote, adding that the PPC leader hasn’t “earned the privilege” of being on a national stage.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters in Winnipeg Tuesday that he’s willing to debate anyone who is running to be prime minister. When asked if he was concerned about Bernier’s party splitting conservatives votes, Scheer responded, “Not at all.”
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Dutcher won a Juno award for Indigenous music album of the year in March and got additional attention when his acceptance speech, which included a message to the prime minister about reconciliation, was cut short.
“A nation-to-nation relationship does not look like pipelines,” Dutcher told the Junos audience in March. “A nation-to-nation relationship does not look like sending militarized police force into unceded territory and a nation-to-nation relationship does not look like, in 2019, our communities still on boiled-water advisory.”
His speech was abruptly ended after show producers played music to signal that his time was up. When The Arkells won later for best rock band album, singer Max Kerman invited Dutcher back onto the stage to finish his speech about reconciliation.
With files from Andree Lau