03/07/2013 06:41 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

First Nations And Cultural Groups Reject Political Apologies

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The leaders of several B.C. First Nations and cultural groups say they want political parties to stop using official apologies for historical wrongs as partisan campaign strategies.

On Thursday in Vancouver Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Chiefs, was joined by Charan Gill, the CEO of the Progressive Inter-Cultural Services Society and Sid Chow Tan, the president of the Head Tax Families Society of Canada to demand transparency around apologies and restorative justice.

The call comes as the B.C. Liberals try to quell the eruption of anger and distrust from their ethnic outreach document, which talked about using government resources to score "quick wins" with Chinese and Indian voters by apologizing for historic injustices.

"It represents a deep sense of betrayal and we find it highly offensive that now the moves on the part of the B.C. provincial Liberals are tainted by this revelation, and it brings into question their efforts at reconciliation with respect to historical wrong doings," said Phillip.

"This attitude behind this document – it really stinks. That's what we object to. It doesn't give us any respect. It uses us as a commodity, that we are simple-minded people," said Gill.

"Don't pander to me by saying that 'Hey we have a strategy. We are going to apologize.' Well you know what? Take your apology and shove it where the sun don't shine," said Tan.

Policy leak led to resignations

Clark announced Monday that Multiculturalism Minister John Yap was leaving his cabinet post while her deputy minister, John Dyble, undertook an investigation into the leaked government strategy to woo ethnic voters.

The premier's then-deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, who helped draft the 17-page Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan more than a year ago, also announced she was stepping down on Friday.

Clark has apologized three times for the document, which was leaked by the NDP in the legislature, and the language used in it. The plan made several proposals to entice ethnic voters in the run-up to the May provincial election. The documents indicate election-related planning was to be conducted by taxpayer-funded workers, some working out of the premier's office.

It also outlined "quick wins" for the Liberals, such as making apologies in the Legislature for historical wrongs, and specifically mentioned the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, which saw a ship carrying 356 passengers forced to return to India after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour.

Former premier Gordon Campbell already issued an official apology regarding the Komagata Maru incident in 2008.

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