POLITICS
10/24/2011 04:45 EDT | Updated 12/24/2011 05:12 EST

Wall sticks by Sask. Party candidate whose remark upset First Nations

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REGINA - In an election campaign that has been largely smooth sailing for Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party, comments from one candidate are making waves.

A First Nations woman and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations urged Wall on Monday to remove Greg Ottenbreit as a member and candidate of the Saskatchewan Party after comments he made at a forum in Yorkton on Oct. 19.

It started when a man in the crowd asked about sharing resource revenue with First Nations.

"Mr. Ottenbreit stood up and he said that First Nations people use handouts and the money that just comes easily for drugs and alcohol and other things," said Alyssa Lerat, who is a member of the Cowessess First Nation.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I felt degraded and was hurt by Mr. Ottenbreit's comments."

Ottenbreit apologized Friday and said in a news release that he doesn't remember his exact words, but acknowledged the comment was inappropriate and his words were poorly chosen.

Morley Watson, vice-chief with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, questioned Ottenbreit's sincerity.

"First of all, you always know what you said. You don't use an excuse," Watson said Monday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.

"And then I think he further said, 'well, I heard that from my aboriginal friends,' so I guess he was basing his comments ... probably not actual facts. So the apology really, we thought, was very insincere. It lacked any credibility."

Watson said the remark sets everybody back from working together to build better communities.

"Comments like this, I think, don't do anything except hurt people and that's the disappointment in all of this," said Watson.

First Nations have been long been calling on the province to share revenue from the resources that are being extracted from their traditional territories.

The Opposition NDP has promised in its election platform to share part of the province's resource revenue with First Nations.

The Saskatchewan Party has not.

"We do oppose a special revenue sharing deal for First Nations or any group for the reasons that the resource revenue of the province belongs to everybody equally. That's it. That's the only reason that we have stated our position," said Wall.

The premier defended Ottenbreit while speaking with reporters Monday.

"For those of you who know Greg, this is a good man and he immediately understood that this was the wrong thing to say and apologized," said Wall.

Ottenbreit, who was first elected in 2007, made strides to apologize again Monday. He acknowledged there would be an impact on his relationship with First Nations people.

"You know to this point I think I had a very good relationship, it's just that this comment quite likely set a lot of those relationships back and I'll just do my best to repair them as best as I can," he said.