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Former Canadian Justice Minister and current independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks in parliament during Question Period in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2020.

PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould said on Thursday that she hopes an apology from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has “authenticity,” after the minister sent a text message that Ms. Wilson-Raybould said was “racist” and showed “disrespect for Indigenous peoples.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould made a post on Twitter in which she commented on an announcement earlier that day by the Cowessess First Nation that a search with ground-penetrating radar had located unmarked gravesites near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

“With the horrific news out of Saskatchewan, our collective call, again, is for concrete transformative action,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould said in her tweet. She also exhorted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop his “selfish jockeying for an election” and “do what you promised in 2018″ – a reference to an address in the House of Commons by Mr. Trudeau on a recognition and implementation-of-rights framework for Indigenous people.

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On Thursday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould made another Twitter post, this one containing a screenshot. The screenshot shows two text messages from Ms. Bennett to Ms. Wilson-Raybould. One message is a link to Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s earlier tweet, about the Saskatchewan discovery. The other is a single word: “Pension ?”

An MP with six years of service is eligible for their pension. Ms. Wilson-Raybould first became an MP for the Liberal party in 2015 and would have six years of service in October. If an election were held before then and she were to lose her seat, she would be unable to collect.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould, a former B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations who resigned from cabinet in 2019 over the SNC-Lavalin controversy, said on Twitter that Ms. Bennett’s message reflected a stereotype that “Indigenous peoples are lazy,” and that they only want money. She also said that the message was “racist” and “misogynist,” that it showed “disregard, disdain” and “disrespect for Indigenous peoples,” and that it implied that a strong Indigenous woman is a “bad” Indigenous woman.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould told The Globe and Mail on Thursday that the message from Ms. Bennett came to her “absolute surprise.” The two had last texted, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said, in December, 2018.

She added it was a “horrible thing” to receive the minister’s message on a day that should have been focused on the community of Cowessess and residential school survivors.

“To think that it is, in any way, shape or form, appropriate to receive a text like that from the Minister of the Crown to an Indigenous MP, or anyone for that matter, is completely unacceptable,” she said.

“To have a Minister of the Crown, one that is responsible for Crown-Indigenous relations, respond to me in such a way, it is awful.”

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Ms. Bennett said on Twitter that she has offered an apology directly to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, and that she let “interpersonal dynamics” get the better of her. She called her text messages insensitive and inappropriate, adding that she deeply regretted sending them.

As for whether she accepts the apology, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she hopes “there is authenticity” in what Ms. Bennett said.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould said the message from Ms. Bennett gave her flashbacks to the way that she was treated when she was a member of the government, before she was removed from the Liberal caucus in 2019. She said she was very outspoken about the need for reconciliation and solutions that needed to be undertaken.

She said that Ms. Bennett should wonder if sending such text messages is appropriate, given the magnitude of issues before the country, which she said should be addressed without partisanship or calling out another MP.

“I think that should cause a great deal of self reflection for her and her boss, the Prime Minister,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould said.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould added that the Prime Minister promised to move forward with a recognition of rights for Indigenous people in Canada, including the ability for them to be self-determining and self-governing. She said this will require laws to change, along with the policies and practices of the government, in order to facilitate a move away from paternalism and what she called the “racist” Indian Act.

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She also said there need to be investigations into what happened at residential schools.


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