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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, seen here in Edmonton on March 20, 2020, has rejected calls to fire his speechwriter Paul Bunner.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Our Western Canada newsletter is written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is facing renewed calls to fire his speechwriter after more of Paul Bunner’s columns about race and LGBTQ people surfaced.

Mr. Bunner, who has worked for the Premier since last year and was previously former prime minister Stephen Harper’s speechwriter, came under fire last week for a 2013 piece in the magazine C2C Journal in which he said the description of Canada’s residential-school system as a form of genocide was “bogus.” The article was first reported by the CBC.

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The Opposition New Democrats have since unearthed more pieces of Mr. Bunner’s writing, mostly from his time at the conservative magazine Alberta Report in the 1990s, that included comments the NDP said were disparaging to First Nations and LGBTQ people.

Jason Kenney doubles down on conservative approach to Alberta economy, despite pandemic

On Tuesday, the NDP released a piece from 2003 in which Mr. Bunner recalled racial tensions during his time as a student at Boston University. He used the N-word when recounting something a roommate had told him and he argued that race was a “defining element” of violent crime in the United States and Canada.

Another column questioned the media attention given to the murder of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay university student in Wyoming who was tortured and killed in 1998.

NDP MLA David Shepherd said the columns were more proof that Mr. Bunner has to go.

“The sheer volume of hateful writing has taken us some time to sift through,” Mr. Shepherd told reporters.

“We cannot have any trust that Jason Kenney is sincere about confronting systemic racism as long as he continues to have Paul Bunner working in his office. He must fire him.”

Mr. Kenney has rejected calls to fire Mr. Bunner. His office accused the NDP of taking the 2003 article out of context, noting that Mr. Bunner also wrote that his university experience showed him that “no matter how poisoned a society is by racism, it can be overcome.” The Premier’s office did not address the column’s other points, including his comments about the links between race and violence.

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Mr. Kenney defended Mr. Bunner in an interview earlier this week, arguing that his views have changed since he wrote the articles cited by the NDP and others. He said Mr. Bunner will soon be meeting residential-school survivors “to hear in humility and empathy their first-hand experiences,” though he declined to provide further details about the meeting.

“I can tell you I think all of us have learned a lot on these issues over the past decade. I certainly have. And I think he’s open to learning more,” Mr. Kenney told The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Kenney said there’s no doubt that Mr. Bunner, an opinion columnist and journalist for 40 years, has written things “I disagree with, and that I and others would find offensive.”

“I can tell you the Paul Bunner I know is a kind and decent person, whose views I’m sure have changed on a number of issues.”

Mr. Kenney said Mr. Bunner has presented him with speech texts “which emphasized a deep respect and a real empathy for Indigenous people.”

Indigenous leaders, including the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, have called for Mr. Bunner to be fired, arguing that his comments about residential schools are insulting, dehumanizing and will hurt progress on reconciliation.

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Our Western Canada newsletter is written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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