02/23/2020 20:02 EST | Updated 02/24/2020 10:30 EST

Peter MacKay's Campaign Manager Sends Mixed Messages With Blockade Tweet

Some thought he was encouraging anti-Indigenous violence.

Peter MacKay / Facebook
Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay, left, his campaign manager Alex Nuttall, centre, and former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown are pictured at a 2018 event.

TORONTO — Peter MacKay’s campaign manager is brushing off claims one of his tweets encouraged violence against Indigenous people, saying that the post about his experience at church speaks for itself.

Alex Nuttall, a former Ontario MP who is running MacKay’s campaign for leadership of the federal Conservative Party, raised eyebrows Sunday when he tweeted that his morning at church included complaints from people about an anti-pipeline blockade, as well as an invitation to “the range.”

Blockades and protests have been set up across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink’s construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional B.C. territory. However, elected band councils along the route support the project.

The actions have blocked CN and Via Rail lines, which in turn have led to temporary layoffs and impacts on businesses that rely on rail shipments. 

A blockade organized by the Mohawk First Nation in Tyendinaga, Ont. near Belleville has been up for more than a week. 

Some people interpreted the second sentence of Nuttall’s tweet as a continuous thought, linking the dismantling of the blockade with target practice at a gun range.

Nuttall told HuffPost Canada that the tweet was “self-explanatory.”

“Our church is planning a church family trip to the range in the next few months. I’m excited for it,” he wrote in an email.

He didn’t respond to subsequent questions, including what kind of range he was referring to. MacKay’s head of communications, Michael Diamond, declined to comment.

Nuttall was a one-term MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. He announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2019 to spend more time with his family.

Last week, MacKay himself raised eyebrows with a tweet that was criticized for seemingly promoting blockade-related vigilantism. He praised counter-protesters who tried to remove parts of a blockade erected on a Canadian National rail line in Edmonton. He later deleted the tweet after receiving criticism, but described the act of removing blockades as “an act of good citizenship.”

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