Original Published on Sep 26, 2022 at 14:51
By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Strong criticism and calls to step away from his mayoral campaign have been levelled against one candidate for mayor of Winnipeg, after that candidate made comments that he believes Indigenous men don’t “value women.”
During an election forum event last week with some of Winnipeg’s current mayoral candidates, Don Woodstock, a security-company owner who is now making his second run for mayor of Winnipeg, was asked what could be done to better deal with the issue of violent crimes perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls in Winnipeg, and about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Woodstock said he believes there is a general disrespect towards women by Indigenous men.
“In most cases, if you talk to them and listen to them and listen to how they view and value women, it’s not the same as how I view and value women,” Woodstock said during the event.
“I’m giving you my view of what I’ve seen.”
He asked that Indigenous men now “come to the table” to help deal with the issues of violence against women.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Deputy Grand Chief Cornell McLean said he was “appalled” to hear a candidate for mayor of this city making generalities about Indigenous males as a whole, and he called the comments “racist.”
“It is appalling that in the year 2022, these types of racist and stereotypical statements are being made,” McLean said.
“It is even worse that the speaker is someone running politically to lead the City of Winnipeg, home to Canada’s largest Indigenous population.
“Candidates for such high responsibility roles need to come with the knowledge of First Nation issues and their cause and effect. Furthermore, anyone wishing to be mayor of a municipality should expect to continuously educate themselves on these issues, instead of directing blame toward these marginalized and targeted demographics.
“We urge this candidate to make reparations and apologize to First Nations people, and to reflect on whether such comments inspire reconciliation.”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee also condemned Woodstock’s comments and said he wondered if Woodstock should now step away from his campaign.
“On behalf of MKO, I condemn the ignorant, uninformed remarks by a Winnipeg mayoral candidate regarding violence against Indigenous women,” Settee said in a media release.
“This candidate is placing the onus on Indigenous men when asked about safety for women in Winnipeg. He stated Indigenous men need to ‘come to the table’ to address the issue. Clearly, this man has no ties to First Nations citizens or communities. This is very concerning.
“I urge the mayoral candidate to apologize to the First Nations citizens across the province for your disparaging comments, and to reconsider your decision to seek the position of Mayor.
”We need allies, not more racism, especially from community leaders.”
On Monday, Woodstock didn’t back away from his comments.
“I get it that people are upset with my statement and the way I said it, but it was meant to draw attention to something that I don’t believe has had enough attention paid to it,” Woodstock told the Sun.
“I think the men and the young men need to come to the table and represent this as much as they can.”
He made it clear he believes what he said to be accurate and added he has no plans to step away from his mayoral candidacy.
“So for those who may say I crossed a line, that I am prepared to say I am sorry for that, and that I never meant to be racist, and I’m not a racist person at all, but in terms of asking the Indigenous men to come to the table, I am not apologizing for that, because there is nothing to apologize for,” Woodstock said.