Opposition leader Rachel Notley is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to fire his speechwriter.
In a video posted to her Twitter account, Notley explained that she had asked Kenney, in legislature, why speechwriter Paul Bunner was still employed after it had come to light that he had written an essay in 2013 describing the Canadian Aboriginal residential school system as a “bogus genocide story.”
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“I asked Jason Kenney about the fact that his speech writer has written an essay that includes horrible, hateful, racist, and I would argue even illegal comments denigrating Indigenous people in Alberta,” she said in the video.
“I asked him how it is that such a person could be allowed such a job in the highest office in the province, and why it is Jason Kenney’s policy to keep that guy employed.”
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) June 25, 2020
Penner had been Stephen Harper’s speechwriter from 2006 to 2009, and his essay was published on C2C Journal on October 26, 2013.
In the essay, titled The “Genocide” That Failed, Bunner called for a questioning of “the residential schools orthodoxy,” that something be done “to overcome the perverse financial incentives that currently reward stories of abuse,” and to “provide context” to the history and stories of Canada’s residential schools.
He wrote that “while Indian kids were going to residential schools in the early to mid-20th century, thousands of white kids were going to boarding schools. More than a few of them were beaten, sexually abused and tyrannized by teachers who were better suited for minding inmates than students,” and he noted that “while Indians endured worse than most, bad things have always happened to good people.”
When questioned about the essay in a press conference on Thursday, Kenney noted that he hadn’t read it but that he had seen some portions of it.
“I’ve seen excerpts and I fundamentally disagree with those statements,” he said.
Kenney then quoted what he’d said a week prior in legislature while passing a motion to condemn racism in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protests, which had been sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
“We as Canadians are still coming to terms with the terrible devastation of our Indigenous communities through the regime of residential schools, where children were torn away from their parents, where families were destroyed by the abuse of power of the state in an effort to completely deracinate Indigenous children from their families, their languages, and their cultures,” he said.
“I imagine that someone who was a journalist for forty years will have written things that I disagree with, that I and others may find offensive.”
Kenney did not speak to whether or not Bunner would be keeping his position as speechwriter.
Notley has since called for the immediate firing of Bunner and an apology from the premier.
“We shouldn’t have anybody giving any kind of advice on anything who holds those kinds of vile views,” she said.
“It is hurtful to indigenous people throughout this province, and Jason Kenney must step up — he must apologize for his attempts to defend this fellow up until now and he must fire him.”