MP Candice Bergen is interium leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A First Nations leader in Manitoba is expressing concerns about the recent naming of Candice Bergen as interim leader of the federal Conservatives because he says the MP has in the past shown “questionable judgment” and a willingness to be “associated with racism.”
On Feb. 2 Bergen, the federal MP for Portage-Lisgar, was chosen as the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada after Erin O’Toole was forced out as leader following a leadership review.
The move to temporarily place Bergen in the leadership role is concerning to Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, who said he believes Bergen could do more to divide the country and could slow efforts at reconciliation with Indigenous people.
“On several occasions, Ms. Bergen has exhibited questionable judgment and has chosen a path of division,” Daniels said. “I call on Conservatives to chart a course of reconciliation and to not further align with hateful elements of their party.”
Daniels said he is also concerned because of an image that circulated online last year that shows Bergen posing while wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat, a symbol widely known to represent the candidacy and presidency of now-former U.S. President Donald Trump.
“In January of last year, a photo circulated on social media showing her wearing a Make America Great Again hat,” Daniels said.
“To many, the MAGA hat has become a symbol of racism and white supremacy.”
Daniels said the image shows Bergen’s willingness to be “associated with racism.”
Daniels is also calling out Bergen for her statements in Parliament last week when she defended protesters who are currently protesting vaccine mandates in Ottawa and compared the actions of some protesters who carried Nazi flags and confederate flags to the actions of Indigenous protesters that tore down and vandalized statues in Winnipeg last summer.
“When asked about the presence of Nazi symbols and Confederate flags in the crowds, Bergen had the audacity to compare those incidents to demonstrations in Winnipeg when First Nation protesters and allies toppled symbols of the Crown including a statue of Queen Victoria,” Daniels said.
“The statues were toppled in reaction to the discovery of unmarked graves near several former residential schools in Canada.
“To even think of drawing similarities between those two movements is disturbingly out of touch.”
And with Bergen now temporarily at the helm of the federal Conservatives, Daniels now believes the party is moving into “dangerous territory.”
“I firmly believe the Conservative party has taken a gigantic step backwards by elevating Ms. Bergen into leadership, even if it is just for a short period of time,” Daniels said. “The Conservative party is entering into very dangerous and potentially divisive territory with Ms. Bergen’s election.”
He said he now hopes to see the federal Conservatives move in a different direction when Bergen is no longer the interim leader and a new leader has been chosen.
“I can only hope this is just a short-term move, and that the party will make every effort possible to elect a new leader who is committed to building positive relationships with all Canadians, especially the First Peoples of this land,” Daniels said.
Winnipeg Sun reached out to Bergen for comment but had no response.
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.