Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
SLAVE LAKE, Alta. — A northern Alberta councillor says she is deeply sorry for recommending her town stop feeding and "being so nice" to its Indigenous homeless population.
At a Sept. 8 council meeting, Slave Lake Coun. Joy McGregor gave a five-minute update on the homeless population in the town, about 250 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
In a video of the meeting posted on YouTube, McGregor said that Slave Lake's homeless population is made up of Indigenous people from nearby communities, including Trout, Loon, Atikameg and Wabasca. She didn't cite any evidence to back that up.
"They’re not even from our community,” said McGregor, who has been sitting on Slave Lake's council since 2016.
"We need to work to get them home. We need to stop being so nice to them. We need to stop feeding them. We need to stop doing all these wonderful things.
"I know that that sounds horrible, and there'll be people that will be all over down my throat for it, but they have to be accountable."
During her update, McGregor also said police don't do enough to get rid of homeless people who are using a local college's phone charging stations. She also said homeless people are stealing hand sanitizer and drinking it.
A 500-word apology was posted on McGregor's Facebook page Monday addressed to "the community."
"I acknowledge that I have upset many people by using language that was inconsiderate," the apology reads.
"If I had the language that I now know I need to learn, I would have approached this situation completely different. I am deeply sorry to you all and those affected by poor choice of language and the feelings you have felt since the September town council meeting."
McGregor's Sept. 8 comments came to light after a Nov. 3 Slave Lake council decision that denied an application by the non-profit Native Friendship Centre to rezone a building owned by the province in Slave Lake. The plan by the centre was to include transitional housing in the building.
The Driftpile Cree Nation said it was "deeply disappointed" with the decision.
"We recognize that Treaty 8 territory suffers from a serious homelessness problem and we have a significant interest in resolving this pressing issue," reads a letter from the First Nation.
"We are and continue to be deeply disappointed by the lack of partnership shown by the town of Slave Lake in this regard and the us/them attitude demonstrated by the town council.
"What is manifesting as homelessness and/or drug and alcohol addiction today is the direct result of our people's forced disconnection from our land, culture and community by Canadian colonization," the letter says.
"We do not raise these facts to blame or finger point as that is unproductive and divisive. Rather, we raise these facts because we believe it is important that we begin with an understanding of the role colonial policies and practices have played (and continue to play) in creating the current situation and that we move forward with a shared responsibility for fixing the issues that have been created."