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Ignatieff orders probe into candidate who called natives 'featherheads'

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff looks down while unveiling his election platform in Ottawa on on April 3, 2011.


Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has ordered an immediate investigation into one of his Quebec candidates, the founder of a white-rights group.

André Forbes, the Liberal candidate in Manicouagan, is reported in various newspaper and magazine articles calling aboriginal Canadians "featherheads" and has suggested that governments recognized the rights of natives over white people.

His organization is called l'Association des droits des blancs, or the Association for the Rights of Whites.

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"The reported remarks of this candidate are utterly unacceptable," Mr. Ignatieff told reporters outside of a co-op store in Compton, Que., Wednesday morning. "They do not reflect Liberal values."

Mr. Ignatieff said "as soon as I heard these remarks had been made," he ordered an immediate inquiry. And as soon as he finds out the facts, he said he would take "decisive action."

It was the NDP that revealed Mr. Forbes's remarks in a release sent out just before Mr. Ignatieff was to scrum with reporters.

It was the second time in the campaign that NDP Leader Jack Layton was given the opportunity to respond to allegations of racism that had been levelled at his opponents.

The first occurred last week when Bloc Quebecois candidate Yvon Levesque said his NDP opponent in the northern riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou would lose votes because he is aboriginal.

"Mr. Duceppe has refused to dissociate himself and cause his candidate to resign who made racist remarks and now we have a Liberal candidate making racist remarks," Mr. Layton said during a campaign stop in Prince George, B.C.

"Mr. Ignatieff's got to show some leadership here, take the decisive step," said Mr. Layton. "This is completely unacceptable in Canadian politics and he should be firing his candidate."

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The New Democrats quote extensively from Mr. Forbes - and ask whether Mr Ignatieff believes he is a suitable candidate.

According to the NDP research, Mr. Forbes said "that governments recognized aboriginal rights over those of white people. 'This is heinous politics which brings social tensions, which leads to what is happening in Israel.' (Le Soleil, May 2, 2002)."

It goes on: "On the 'high cost' of respecting First Nations: 'Do you know how much a featherhead costs?' That's the brutal question I was asked by André Forbes, president of the Association for the Rights of Whites of Sept-Îles, in September of 2002, at the height of the controversy surrounding the agreement in principle with the Innu community. Forbes was referring to how much it costs for the State to fulfill its responsibilities towards aboriginals. Of course, he had the answer. "For you, it's 25 grand; for a prisoner, 50 grand; for an Indian; 100 grand."(L'actualite, October 15, 2004).

The Liberal Leader described himself as "shocked" by the remarks.

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About the Authors
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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