Slave Lake councillor apologizes for ‘stop feeding them’ comments toward homeless community

After a northern Alberta Cree Nation called for a boycott of Slave Lake’s economy, a town councillor is backtracking on statements she made during the town’s council meeting Sunday night.

Councillor Joy McGregor was providing an update on the situation surrounding those living with homelessness when she suggested the people and council of Slave Lake need to do some “solid 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.”

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During the meeting, McGregor said she knew she was going to get pushback for the comments, saying she knew there would be people who would be “all over down my throat for it,” but said the homeless community needs to be accountable too.

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“I’m sure not all of them want to live in the bush either. But how do they get home? And how can we help them get home? So that’s a big issue.”

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After McGregor’s comments, a neighbouring Cree Nation issued a news release urging people to boycott the community of Slave Lake, saying the comments reflected a “gross or willful ignorance about the root causes of the problem, as well as a troubling lack of will to come together to resolve these issues in partnership with First Nation.”

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The chief called on Driftpile members to move away from supporting Slave Lake’s economy and said the nation would not make any further investments in Slave Lake until it received an apology for the “callous, cruel and racist comments made by Councillor McGregor.”

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Chief Dwayne Laboucan spoke with Global News on Monday, saying the comments hit home.

“We shouldn’t be talking about people like this,” he said.

“I hate to use the word racism, but obviously it’s still out there and it’s time that Indigenous people stand up and start fighting back right now.

“We’re tired of being at the end of those so-called statements that people always say. It was time to do something about it. We’re tired of just standing still and doing nothing.”

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On Sunday night, McGregor wrote a Facebook post seemingly defending her comments, saying the public only sees parts of the discussion.

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“As a human being and town councillor, I’m still getting used to the fact that the public only sees two of our meetings live on social media: the weekly council meetings and the monthly MPC meetings,” she said.

“As council, we are well aware of what is happening before meetings became live. This includes our initiatives and partnerships being taken on by the town, the homeless coalition, as well as the Slave Lake Native Friendship Center.”

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But on Monday morning, she backtracked on her comments in another Facebook post.

“I acknowledge that I have upset many people by using language that was inconsiderate.

“If I had the language that I now know I need to learn, I would have approached this situation completely different,” she wrote. “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.”

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McGregor goes on to say she understands she needs to “welcome ways to unlearn racism,” as well as remembering she represents the community at large.

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Laboucan said he would be open to sitting down with McGregor to not only try and solve Slave Lake’s homeless problem, but also to educate her further.

“We just need to have more education and stop, at the end of the day, stop being like this,” he said.

“We’re all here to live a happy life and do the best we can on this earth. There’s no reason — there’s no more room for that kind of stuff in this time and era of the world.

Global News has reached out to McGregor and will update this story if a response is received.

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