Ten Gitxsan hereditary chiefs have called for the firing of NDP candidate Nathan Cullen after he was caught on a microphone making comments about an Indigenous BC Liberal candidate in a neighbouring riding.
Cullen, a former federal NDP MP, is running for the MLA spot in the Stikine riding. His comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial, which were made before the all-candidates meeting last week in Smithers sparked criticism on Saturday, Oct. 17.
“He’s not well-liked — he’s Haida — in his own community,” said Cullen, referring to Cheexial. “The guy’s going to get bedrock 20 per cent.”
Cullen then went on to make fun of Cheexial’s nickname, Kinkles, which Cheexial told Vancouver radio station News 1130 means ‘Golden Boy’ in Japanese and was given to him by a family friend when he was a boy. In Japanese folklore, Golden Boy is a child of superhuman strength.
“I apologize unreservedly for my comments and have done so personally to Roy. I need to, and will, do better,” Cullen tweeted.
On Monday, in an open letter to BC NDP Leader John Horgan, the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs called for the removal of Cullen as a candidate for the party and for Horgan to take “affirmative action on such disrespectful behaviour.”
Signed by 10 hereditary chiefs, the letter reads: “Anything less will be a further signal of disrespect to Indigenous people in British Columbia, and inconsistent with your stated commitment to reconciliation.”
NDP Leader John Horgan addressed the comments during a campaign stop in the Vancouver Island’s Courtenay-Comox riding Sunday, where he said Cullen feels “great remorse.”
“The repercussions are that Nathan is feeling devastated by this on a personal level. I believe no one will work harder than Nathan now, to rebuild the trust with those who may have started to question that.”
This is not the first time Cullen’s campaign has come under fire. The hereditary chiefs also criticized Horgan’s party for choosing Cullen over Tahltan Central Government president Annita McPhee, with some critical that the BC NDP were going back on their equity policy.
In a separate statement, Haida Nation president Gaagwiis Jason Alsop defended Cullen.
“Former MP Nathan Cullen has worked hard over the years to represent all of the people of the North Coast with respect. Mr. Cullen has established a good relationship with the Haida Nation and his recent comments do not warrant his resignation or an apology to the Haida Nation.”
– with files from Katya Slepian, Terry Farrel and Jake Wray
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