Perhaps it was just bad timing.
I was pleased to see the front page of this paper proudly reporting about the recent Lacombe Against Racism protest. I was also proud of our city in how 300 people came together to peacefully support Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Central Alberta without any disruption. I was, however, disappointed that there did not appear to be a strong political presence in attendance from our local leaders. Fortunately, a column also appeared in last week’s paper by our MLA Ron Orr entitled “Alberta government believes racism has no place in our province” which spoke of the UCP government’s funding of anti-racism initiatives.
These two stories are great news for Alberta in its fight against racism. Unfortunately, they both were overshadowed by another news story released on the same day regarding Premier Kenney’s speechwriter Paul Bunner. In 2013 an article surfaced in which Bunner called residential schools a “bogus genocide story”. Bunner further stated that “Vast swathes of the public education system are uncritically regurgitating the genocide story as if it were fact”. At a time when Canadians are trying to reconcile from our troubled past including the death of some 6,000 Indigenous children placed in residential schools, news of having a person like Bunner working for our government is most troublesome. Also worrisome, is the extent that Kenney is refusing to hold Bunner accountable for his racist thoughts, and continues to keep him employed on the taxpayer’s dime! As you might expect, Albertans are extremely angry over this, and in particular our Indigenous peoples.
Kenney has commented very little on this matter but did acknowledge that he disagreed with Bunner’s statements. In today’s world, this is not enough. More and more we are seeing people being held accountable for their inappropriate comments, including professional athletes, columnists, business leaders, TV personalities and even board members. This is as it should be. If the Alberta government truly believes that “racism has no place in our province”, then it is time to take action. We need less talk, and more action from not only our premier, but also our locally elected MLAs.
I am hopeful that by the time this letter is published, the UCP will have taken appropriate action, and dismissed Bunner. That would be the kind of “bad timing” I could live with.