A group of hereditary chiefs is calling for the resignation of provincial NDP candidate Nathan Cullen, a former MP and leadership prospect for the national party, for remarks about a BC Liberal Haida candidate that NDP Leader John Horgan dubbed “stupid.”
Mr. Cullen is the latest candidate to get into trouble ahead of the Oct. 24 election for remarks caught on video, after high-profile incidents involving two BC Liberals.
“I know that no one is going to work harder than Nathan Cullen to make up for his stupid comments,” Mr. Horgan said on Monday while campaigning in Victoria.
Mr. Cullen, running in the northern B.C. riding of Stikine, was participating in an all-candidates forum last week when he made the remarks about Roy Jones Jr., who is the BC Liberal candidate in the North Coast riding. Jennifer Rice is the NDP incumbent.
In the video, Mr. Cullen is heard but not seen suggesting Mr. Jones is “not well liked in his – he’s Haida – in his own community. He’s like, he’s really going to give Jenn a run for her money.
“It’s like ... the guy’s going to get a bedrock 20 per cent. Like, his name is Kinkles!”
In an interview, Mr. Jones said “Kinkles” is a nickname a family friend gave him when he was a child. He said it means “Golden Boy” in Japanese.
Of Mr. Cullen’s comments, he said, “I’d say they’re sarcastic and a little bit uncalled for.”
Mr. Jones said Mr. Cullen called to apologize. “I told him he had to apologize to the Haida people,” he said. Asked if Mr. Cullen’s apology was sincere, Mr. Jones said, “I think he did his best.”
In a tweet, Mr. Cullen wrote, “I apologize unreservedly for my comments and have done so personally to Roy. I need to, and will, do better.” He did not respond Monday to requests for comment.
Earlier, the Office of the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs denounced the remarks in a letter signed by 10 chiefs. The letter said that, if elected, Mr. Cullen would have a hard time speaking for First Nations people in B.C., and urged Mr. Horgan to remove him as a candidate.
However, the Council of the Haida Nation tweeted that Mr. Cullen has worked hard over the years to represent all of the North Coast people 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.”
Mr. Horgan said on Monday he had talked to Mr. Cullen, expressed his disappointment, and said that Mr. Cullen has reached out to community leaders in the northwest, where he was a well-known MP for 15 years.
Asked about the Gitxsan letter, Mr. Horgan said Mr. Cullen has positive working relationships with all of the Indigenous groups in the northwest of B.C, and noted the Haida Nation has endorsed his apology.
“I am confident that no one will work harder on reconciliation than Nathan,” Mr. Horgan said.
Mr. Cullen secured the nomination over an Indigenous woman despite a provincial NDP equity policy to reserve the candidacy in any riding previously held by a male New Democrat who isn’t running again for a woman or a member of another “equity-seeking group.” The party said there was a problem with the nomination application package submitted by Annita McPhee, former president of the Tahltan Nation.
Under Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, the NDP has held the Stikine riding since the 2009 election. Mr. Donaldson, who is not running again, won 52 per cent of the vote in the 2017 election.
Mr. Cullen was an NDP MP in the area for 15 years. He did not seek re-election in last year’s federal vote.
At dissolution, the NDP had 41 members, and the Liberals 41, with two Greens, two independents and one vacancy.
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