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Dene National Chief defends views on safety of women

The Dene National Chief has defended remarks he made at a Sisters in Spirit march in Yellowknife last Friday.

According to the Yellowknifer newspaper, Bill Erasmus reportedly told the crowd at Friday’s event: “We’ve got to be responsible for ourselves. We have to look after our young girls, our own people. We have to tell them, get off the streets at a certain time.”

Erasmus also placed an emphasis on parenting, calling for stricter supervision of children.

The march’s organizer, Sandra Lockhart, said she found Erasmus’s comments disappointing – and added young girls should be encouraged to “take back the streets” rather than vacate them.

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“All of the women who are dying are dying because they are high risk women and high risk children? You know we’re not safe anywhere,” Lockhart told the CBC.

‘We had to be home’

Moose FM reached Erasmus in Edmonton on Wednesday morning, where he was attending the Assembly of First Nations’ federal election forum. At the time, Erasmus was unaware of headlines made by his prior speech back in Yellowknife.

“I didn’t say ‘stay off the streets’. I said the streets are not safe,” Erasmus told us. “If you are on the streets, protect each other. Be with a friend. Be with someone so that you don’t have a single woman on the streets which, obviously, is causing concern across the country.

“We are getting away from protecting and supporting each other. When I was young, my sister and I would go to the school dance. I made sure she was safe by taking her home after the dance. Those are the things we need to get back to.

“There used to be a curfew in Yellowknife at 9pm. We all knew we had to be home at 9pm. We’ve gotten away from that and we’re not as strict. We don’t watch over our children as closely as we should – and I’m talking as a parent.

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“We as people in our community have to be in control of our own streets. We have to look out for each other.”

Separately, Erasmus criticized the Conservatives for failing to attend the AFN’s leaders’ forum. Tom Mulcair, for the NDP, was the only party leader present. The Liberals and Greens sent representatives.

“The Conservative government is not going to be here to talk about its record, or about the new trade agreement that many of us are concerned about, because we don’t have particulars and we’re not sure if it actually protects our own interests,” said Erasmus.

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