Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Winnipeg mayoral candidate faces racism during campaign

CBC News

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette is exposing the racism he's faced so far in his campaign.

Ouellette, 37, spoke entirely in French at the Francophone Chamber of Commerce mayoral debate in St. Boniface last week.

Not long afterwards, racist comments were posted online on Ouellette's Facebook page, first about his decision to speak French then about his aboriginal heritage. He also received hateful emails.

The comments ranged from "you are lower-class" to angry obscenities about Indians and French people.

Ouellette, the program director for the Aboriginal Focus Programs at the University of Manitoba, said instead of turning the other cheek he's talking about it to expose what's out there.

"You know, I have my PhD, two masters degrees a bachelors degree. I was in the army for 18 years and no matter it seems what I do, for some people it's never enough," he said.

"What courses through my veins will never be enough for some people."

Ouellette said he decided to speak French at the debate because he could, and to honour the fact he was in St. Boniface.

To demonstrate respect, one should be using the language of the group hosting you, if you have the capacity, he said.

“Winnipeggers from across our city take pride in our country’s vibrant French culture," Ouellette said.

"French is not only the founding language of our province, but also one of our two national languages, spoken by 13 per cent of the population in Winnipeg and central to our identity as a creative, diverse and successful society."

The reaction to the mayoral debates "demonstrates that we still have ways to go to creating a completely inclusive and respectful society," Ouellette added, saying the comments represent a very small vocal minority that must be challenged every day.

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