Indigenous leaders are asking for action after racist comments from leaders in Manitoba's government.

The Summit of Treaty 5 Sovereign Nations (STSN) says it is taking action to call out and respond to racism and hate crimes against First Nations peoples.

Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) says the only way to stop racism is to confront and face it.

"Today we are not here to topple any statues, we are here to topple a government that is racist," Settee says standing on the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba's steps. "Manitobans do not agree with Pallister. Most Manitobans do not agree with his ideologies so I say unto this government, why don't you just resign?"

He says Pallister is "damaging our people. You are damaging the legacy of 1,500 students that died in those residential schools." Settee is telling Pallister "get out of our way."

This comes after repeated comments from Premier Brian Pallister that draw criticism, including saying those who came to Canada "came here to build better" in a press conference after Canada Day's statue toppling.

"We developed the fur industry. We showed you how to travel through this country. We looked after you. We showed you how to live," Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

In response, Dumas says First Nations people were treated as savages. Dumas says he has tried speaking with Pallister, who instead of discussing "would rather talk at" the Grand Chief. 

The group says the comments were irresponsible and causes a setback.

"I want to acknowledge our leadership and our people, who despite finding 1,500 of our children hidden in mass graves in this very country, still coming with open arms wanting to work together in the spirit and intent of our relationship wanted to move forward in a positive way," Dumas says.

Pallister's previous Indigenous and northern relations minister, Eileen Clarke, stepped down shortly afterwards. Dr. Alan Lagamodiere, a Metis MLA, replaces her but minutes into his appointment said residential schools "really thought that they were doing the right thing" at the time. He was quickly corrected by Opposition Leader Wab Kinew, who is an Honorary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Lagamodiere immediately issued a statement saying he "misspoke" and later send a second apologizing. 

"Who in their right mind can go 'we found 1,505 babies, children, murdered in these schools, hidden and buried in the ground,' and in the same breath say 'residential schools were a good thing. Assimilation was a good thing.' Who can say that in their right mind?"

Chief Sheldon Kent from Black River First Nation says First Nations people were not treated the same.

"Their comments are unacceptable, to say residential school was a good thing, assimilation was a good thing. That is not a good thing. What they have done is disrupt our way of life, how people lived for generations and generations on Turtle Island. We are spiritual people. We had our own ways we had our own laws," Kent says.

This action plan is aimed to lift Indigenous voices and stop racism and hate. They are looking for decisive actions against hate crimes.

"It is 2021. It is time for us to come together, to work together as human beings," Kent says.

Indigenous leaders are sharing an action plan to combat hatred and racism in Manitoba.

The STFSN's plan says to:

  • set up alliances between First Nations and affiliate organizations to respond to racism and hate crimes in an expeditious manner
  • create a task force of Elders, academics, and youth to monitor and execute expeditious actions
  • create a permanent administrative office or department devoted to intervening in hate crimes and racism
  • allow the action plan to be adapted 
  • hate crimes and racism as standing discussions at all Treaty 5 gatherings, starting on August 10
  • closely monitor the action plan, promoting non-violence and avoiding the destruction of property
  • create a report of hate crimes racism, sharing it with the United Nations
  • have organized rallies, as freedom of expression, part of the action plan
  • awareness campaign on the prevalence of hate crimes and racism
  • lobby federal government to criminalize hate crimes
  • condemn and denounce hate crime, hate propaganda, racism, and discrimination