October 22nd, 2020

Horgan says he misspoke at debate about white privilege, regrets alienating people


By The Canadian Press, The Canadian Press on October 14, 2020.

NDP Leader John Horgan, right to left, Green leader Sonia Furstenau and Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson prepare for a debate at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER – NDP Leader John Horgan says he regrets making hurtful comments about white privilege during Tuesday’s leaders debate in the British Columbia election.

Horgan said Wednesday he needs to be reminded daily that he does not face the challenges of systemic racism that many others do.

“As a personification of white privilege, I misspoke, words matter,” he said at a campaign stop at Richmond. “I deeply regret it, but I’m also committed to making sure that every day I’m reminded of the discomfort that I cause to people and I will work to correct that.”

Horgan said he did not intend to hurt people with his debate comments.

“I was jolted out of my comfort last night and I’m going to reflect on that,” he said. “I profoundly regret that I alienated and hurt people last night.”

In an earlier statement issued on Twitter, Horgan said he wished he had given a different answer during the debate when the three party leaders were asked how they have reckoned with white privilege.

Horgan answered by sharing his experience playing lacrosse as a youth, saying he doesn’t see colour.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson discussed his time working in rural B.C. as a doctor in Indigenous communities.

The Green party’s Sonia Furstenau said she cannot comprehend that some mothers tell their children to be wary of the police.

But Horgan later revised his answer on Twitter, admitting it could have upset people.

“Saying ‘I don’t see colour’ causes pain and makes people feel unseen,” he wrote. “I’m sorry. I’ll never fully understand, as a white person, the lived reality of systemic racism. I’m listening, learning, and I’ll keep working every day to do better.”

Horgan said Wednesday he’ll be pleased if the remaining days of the Oct. 24 election campaign are spent discussing issues of racism.

“If I have to talk about anti-racism policies for the next 10 days, that is time well spent,” he said. “I will be delighted if we have the opportunity to address racism, call it out and name it and take steps to fix it. If that’s the rest of the campaign, I think that’s fantastic news for B.C.”

The Liberals have faced criticism of sexism and racism during the campaign for comments made last month about New Democrat candidate Bowinn Ma at a retirement roast for Liberal Ralph Sultan.

Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite apologized for her comments she made about Ma, and Wilkinson also issued an apology.

The Coalition on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in B.C. has sent a letter to the three party leaders expressing “grave concern” that safety of Indigenous people does not appear to be a priority for them.

The letter, signed by 18 people and groups including the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says none of the party platforms released so far offer plans to implement the findings from the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The New Democrat and Liberal parties have unveiled their platforms and Furstenau is slated to release her party’s policies and goals at an event in New Westminster later in the day.

In her answer on Tuesday night, Furstenau pledged to work to end systemic racism, but admitted neither she nor the other two party leaders, who are all white, could ever grasp its nuances.

The letter from the coalition says the COVID-19 pandemic shows all levels of government can act quickly when failing to do so can be life-threatening.

“The negligence of government and its failure to act swiftly to implement the (findings) betrays a lack of value for the lives of Indigenous women,” the letter says.

The letter urges each party to immediately release its plan to act on the findings and to respond to recommendations from the committee about how the plan will be implemented and funded.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.

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