Romeo Saganash is running in the federal election for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the northern riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou. Until recently, Mr. Saganash served as our Director of Québec Relations and International Affairs for 18 years.
Romeo Saganash is a highly qualified candidate. He is a law graduate of the Université du Québec in Montreal and is fluent in Cree, English and French. He is a long-time advocate in human rights and has extensive knowledge in international and Canadian law in a wide range of areas. His broad experience in national and global issues and expertise in bridging diverse cultures in Québec make him highly suited to represent all constituents in his riding.
On March 31, 2011, the incumbent candidate for the Bloc Québécois, Yvon Lévesque, made the following comment:
Some voters will not choose the New Democratic Party any more, now that it has introduced an Aboriginal candidate. [unofficial translation]
Yvon Lévesque is not a racist. However, his statement is totally inappropriate. It invites a discriminatory response from certain voters based on race or ethnicity. It is inconsistent with principles of equality and diversity.
The next day, April 1, Mr. Lévesque issued the following apology:
I offer my sincerest apologies to Romeo Saganash as well as all Aboriginal people in Quebec who may have been impacted by my words. My statement was totally inappropriate and I retract it. I hope that my unfortunate remarks will not harm the important advances of Aboriginal communities for which the Bloc Québécois fought for many years. [unofficial translation]
As affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted overwhelmingly by the General Assembly in 2007:
... indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such ...
Hopefully, there are positive lessons to learn from this incident. All cultures contribute to the common heritage of humankind.