There is growing outrage in a rural Manitoba community and calls for one councillor to resign after that councillor said publicly he wondered if a proposed new seniors complex might bring people from the north and bring more “natives” to the RM of Springfield.
“My heart sunk when I heard what he said. For a politician to speak words against inclusion in their own community is absolutely disgusting,” RM of Springfield resident Doug Murray said on Thursday after listening to an audio recording of an Aug. 8, RM of Springfield council meeting.
“There is no place for that in Springfield, in Canada, or in the world today.”
During the Aug. 8 meeting, Springfield council members were discussing a proposed new seniors complex in the community east of Winnipeg, and Springfield Mayor Patrick Therrien said while speaking at the meeting such a facility was badly needed to allow more people in the community to “age in place.”
But while discussing the proposed plans, Springfield ward 2 Coun. Andy Kuczynski made comments arguing that such a facility could bring more people into the community from other areas of Manitoba, and bring more Indigenous people to Springfield.
“If there is senior citizens and people that need assisted living or whatever some place up north, they are going to bring them here, because they say truth and reconciliation, so I know what that means.” Kuczynski said.
“They will bring lots of people, probably native people here to this community.”
Kuczynski also seemingly implied that because of truth and reconciliation efforts in Canada, it would be more difficult to turn Indigenous people away if they are seeking housing in Springfield.
“At this point we don’t have it but it’s going to happen,” he said. “You’re never going to say ‘no we’re not going to accept these people.’ ”
Kuczynski’s comments, which have been shared on social media, have led to swift and loud condemnation from many, including Murray who said he is a volunteer and advocate in the community, and previously worked for the RM.
He said the only option that would satisfy him would be for Kuczynski to now resign and step away from council, and added he has heard others in the community tell him they would like to see a resignation as well.
“I’m not an easily offended person by any means, and normally if a good person made a judgment error I would have called and said ‘make a public apology,’ but I was absolutely triggered by this,” Murray said. “Too many words can offend, but with his tone you can tell that is what is engrained in him.
“He needs to resign immediately.”
After the councillor’s comments were shared online, the RM of Springfield released a statement saying the RM does not agree with or condone what was said, and does not “condone racism.”
“The RM of Springfield does not share in the views expressed by this member of council, nor does it condone racism or discrimination of any kind,” the RM said in their statement.
“We prioritize and value the diversity of our community and are committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels they belong and are mutually respected. We have a responsibility as a community to build a world where everyone is welcome, and no one is judged by their race, gender, disabilities, or beliefs.”
The Winnipeg Sun reached out to Kuczynski for comment, and the councillor did send a written statement, but declined to be interviewed.
In his statement Kuczynski said he was sorry for using the term “native” but claimed he is not opposed to people of any background or cultures coming to live in Springfield.
“What I questioned was if the spaces at the proposed personal care home would be reserved specifically for residents of Springfield, as the presenter seemed to suggest,” the statement reads. “I want to be clear that I am not prejudiced towards any person or any culture.
“I wanted to question that because I had heard elsewhere that placement decisions were made mostly by the Health Authority and people from all over the Health Authority District or the Province could be assigned here. It was important to clear up any misunderstanding that rooms would not be reserved only for residents of Springfield.
“I should have used Indigenous or First Nations persons in my question. I did not in any way mean to be disrespectful. I apologize for that. I have zero concern about people from any background coming to Springfield.
“Again, I am sorry for the hurt and disrespect caused by my words. That certainly was not my intention.”
By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Aug 12, 2023