APTN National News
OTTAWA-An incumbent Bloc Quebecois candidate in northern Quebec apologized Friday for saying the Aboriginal ancestry of his NDP opponent was a liability with voters.
Yvon Levesque, the Bloc candidate for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, said Romeo Saganash, a lawyer and former official with the Grand Council of Crees, would turn some voters off because he is Aboriginal.
Levesque issued a statement Friday morning saying he was sorry for the statement.
“I offer my sincerest apologies to Romeo Saganash and also all the Aboriginals in Quebec who may have been impacted by my statement,” said Levesque. “My statement was totally inappropriate and I withdraw it.”
In an article published Thursday by Rue Frontenac, a Quebec news website, Levesque said he believed Saganash’s Cree ancestry would cost him some votes.
“Some voters won’t choose the NDP now that they have an Aboriginal candidate,” he said. “Even if a few people base their decision (on that), it will count since there are only 60,000 voters in the constituency.”
Saganash resigned as director of government relations and international affairs of the Grand Council of Crees to run in the election.
Saganash worked for the council over the past 30 years.
Levesque is running for his fourth term as Bloc MP.
The NDP issued a statement saying Levesque’s initial statement said more about him than his constituents.
“Claiming the people of (the riding) are racist and will not vote for Saganash based on his ethnicity tells more about Levesque than anyone else,” said the statement. “You would think being a representative of his community for almost a decade that Levesque would know who the members of his community are. One-third of the riding is Aboriginal.”
Quebec separatists and Aboriginal nations in the province have had an uneasy history. Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, however, has recently made an effort to mend the relationship with First Nations leaders.