MLA Eileen Clarke has broken her silence about quitting Premier Brian Pallister's cabinet, saying she left due to the premier’s comments on Indigenous people and his refusal to listen to his cabinet ministers.
"I have been hearing from many people, all across the province that they are disappointed with the representation they feel they are not getting at this time," Clarke wrote in a Facebook post Thursday.
"I made the decision to step down from cabinet where I felt my voice and others are not being heard."
The former Indigenous and northern affairs minister wrote that she resigned after "a lot of thought and soul searching" and didn’t want to be divisive, but felt it was important to be transparent about her resignation.
"Strong leadership is required to heal and bring our province and country together in harmony, it can not be done by one individual. Inappropriate words and actions can be very damaging."
At a Wednesday afternoon news conference on the easing of pandemic restrictions, Pallister had nothing but praise for Clarke, but refused to disclose any reasons she may have given him for leaving cabinet. He repeatedly refused to apologize for his comments last week.
"I have nothing but respect and admiration for Eileen Clarke," he said.
Meanwhile, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization joined a growing chorus of Indigenous groups and leaders praising Clarke for her decision to resign.
"I want to commend Eileen for her integrity and for this bold step. Eileen has always been dedicated as a minister and I thank her for her many years of service," SCO Grand Chief Daniels said in a statement Thursday morning. "Yesterday’s news corroborates what I have long suspected; that provincial leadership and their outdated beliefs got in the way of her building the trust and relationships that she wanted with First Nations and other Indigenous peoples."
Last week, in response to protests at the legislature that damaged statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, Pallister defended European settlers as people who came to Canada to build a new life, with no deliberate attempt to destroy the lives of Indigenous peoples.
"The people who came here, to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything — they came here to build," the premier said at a news conference.
The remarks were unanimously denounced by Indigenous leaders, allies and historians as a gross manipulation of history and an insult to residential school survivors and their families.