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Town praised despite no-show by publisher

Morris paper caught up in native controversy

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair tapes letter on the front door of the Morris Mirror office Tuesday.

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BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair tapes letter on the front door of the Morris Mirror office Tuesday. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

The local newspaper may have printed controversial comments about aboriginals, but a University of Manitoba lecturer in native studies says the residents he met in Morris Tuesday were friendly and open-minded.

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair took a day off work and went to Morris on Tuesday hoping to meet with the publisher of the Morris Mirror.

Sinclair said the publisher, Reed Turcotte, had already emailed him before he went, saying he didn't want to meet with Sinclair at this time.

Sinclair went anyway, but after being greeted by a locked door and lights off in the paper's offices, he taped a letter on the front door of the Mirror's office that he's hoping the paper publishes. He then met with residents of Morris, including Mayor Gavin van der Linde and a local school principal.

"I spent over two hours in -40 weather waiting," he said. "I still want to meet with (Turcotte)."

Sinclair had nothing but praise for the Morris residents he met.

"The people of Morris are incredible," he said. "They are some of the most open people I've ever met. I've yet to hear anything of any concern. They're all positive and interested in a dialogue.

"And the mayor is phenomenal. He was incredibly positive and inspiring," said Sinclair.

Last week, the community paper published an editorial listing thumbs up and thumbs down for various issues, including a thumbs down for the country's and province's aboriginal community "who are demanding unrealistic expectations of the government and who in some cases are acting like terrorists in their own country.

"Indians/Natives want it all but corruption and laziness prevent some of them from working for it," wrote Turcotte.

The newspaper later printed an apology, but it also included more than a dozen letters to the editor in favour of the paper's original position.

Turcotte could not be reached for comment.

Mayor van der Linde said he was surprised Turcotte didn't meet with Sinclair.

"I don't know what he's afraid of," van der Linde said Tuesday.

"He should have had a discussion with him. It should be an open and honest discussion to understand the First Nations issues. He could hear from him and he could still disagree.

"This just shows ignorance."

Van der Linde said he doesn't know what will happen with the newspaper's advertising or circulation, but "I think the community and the advertisers will speak for themselves."

Progressive Conservative MLA Mavis Taillieu has decided to pull all her advertising.

"I try to support the local newspapers in my constituency," Taillieu said. "They have only their advertising to rely on because they give away their papers for free... but I have notified the newspaper I am pulling the ad.

"I initially said I wanted to see what type of retraction he would have, but once I saw (the paper), even though he seemed to have a lot of support, I could not agree with his comments," said Taillieu.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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