Premier Doug Ford has apologized in private to an Indigenous NDP legislator he accused of “jumping the line” for a COVID-19 vaccine, but Sol Mamakwa said Friday he wants the premier to apologize publicly to all Indigenous people impacted by his comments.
The premier’s office said Ford called Mamakwa, who represents the northern riding of Kiiwetinoong, on Friday to apologize for comments made in the legislature on Thursday.
When Mamakwa asked during Thursday’s debate about the government’s strategy to vaccinate urban Indigenous people, Ford alleged that unnamed chiefs were upset that Mamakwa was vaccinated in a fly-in community “he doesn’t belong to,” and said he had “jumped the line” to get a shot.
Mamakwa said Ford apologized during their brief Friday conversation for attacking him personally. He said he told Ford he appreciated his call but did not accept the apology when they spoke.
“It’s not me that he needs to apologize to, but it’s Indigenous people across Ontario, to undo the damage that was done on the vaccination strategy that we’re moving towards,” Mamakwa told reporters on Friday.
During the call, which Mamakwa said lasted under two minutes, he said Ford invited him to come visit his office when the legislature resumes sitting.
He said he also pressed Ford on developing an Indigenous-led strategy to get vaccinations to Indigenous people living in urban areas with high COVID-19 infection rates like Thunder Bay and Toronto.
“That’s how we can undo the damage,” he said.
Mamakwa had publicly shared his vaccination when he received his first shot last month.
He has said he was invited by community leaders to get the shot to help combat vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous residents, who are currently prioritized for shots in the provincial vaccination plan.
On Friday, Mamakwa said Ford’s comments implying that he “jumped a line” and did not belong in the community were an attempt to “put (him) in a category where I’m not Indigenous, or I’m not First Nations.”
He said those comments reflect colonialism, racism and oppression, which he said are “alive and well” in the legislative building.
Leaders of all three opposition parties had called on Ford to apologize after his remarks on Thursday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wrote to the premier asking that he retract the comments, which “have dangerously undermined vital public health and vaccination efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press