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Athabasca MLA accuses opposition member of 'racially charged' comments

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Jim Lemaigre, the Sask. Party MLA for Athabasca, accused Trent Wotherspoon, the MLA for Regina Rosemont of ‘extremely offensive and racially charged statements,’ following a debate in the legislature.

The accusation stemmed from comments made during the legislative sitting on March 16.

“Mr. Speaker, during a private members debate on Thursday, the member from Regina Rosemont made a number of extremely offensive and racially charged statements about me,” Lemaigre said in proceedings on Monday.

“He was speaking about our government’s policy on First Nation’s issues like duty to consult.”

Trent Wotherspoon, the NDP MLA for Regina Rosemont, responded to Lemaigre during a debate following question period, referencing his support for the Saskatchewan First Act.

“My advice to the member from Athabasca - and I like this guy personally, I like him personally, Mr. Speaker - but my advice is sometimes you gotta say no. Sometimes you have to exercise your own judgement and take a stand for the people you represent, Mr. Speaker,” Wotherspoon said in the statement cited by Lemaigre.

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“I’m very much free to think, I’m here representing Athabasca constituency and based on that I will make my decisions. At no point was it proper to imply that based on my being Indigenous that I needed to make a decision a certain way,” Lemaigre told reporters on Monday.

Wotherspoon called the accusation of his statement being racially charged “baseless” and “wrong.”

“It’s certainly not the case. It’s baseless and wrong,” he told reporters Monday.

“When I stood in the assembly on Thursday [it was] on the heels of the Saskatchewan Act being advanced without any consultation, without any honouring the duty to consult with First Nations and Metis people.”

“So I challenged that member to focus on the things that matter to his constituents and to those across Saskatchewan. As I would any member, rising on that occasion and at that moment,” he added.

The Speaker of the Legislalative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Randy Weekes, made a ruling on the exchange on March 21.

“At the closing of this prepared member statement, the member from Athabasca used inflammatory language which was directed at member for Regina Rosemont. Rule 51 E states that ‘no member shall use, offensive, provocative or threatening language,’” the speaker read.

“This is not the first time members in this chamber on both sides of the house have used statements by members as a forum to use divisive language when making comments about serious issues."

"This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he added.

“In this highly charged atmosphere I will, on this occasion, provide a warning to all members to be aware of the words that are spoken in this chamber.”

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