B.C. First Nations Cabinet Minister Blasts ‘Nastiness From White Men’ in Legislature as She Resigns
Katie DeRosa, National Post, February 22, 2023
Citing a colonial institution that felt like a “torture chamber,” Melanie Mark, British Columbia’s first First Nations woman to serve as a cabinet minister, said she will resign her Vancouver-Mount Pleasant seat in the B.C. legislature.
During an emotional speech in the legislature Wednesday, Mark expressed frustration with institutions like the legislature that “fundamentally resist the urge to do things differently.”
“This place felt like a torture chamber,” Mark said while wearing her grandfather’s tan beaded jacket and holding an eagle feather. “I will not miss the character assassination.”
In a press conference after the speech, Mark said she faced personal attacks from Opposition MLAs and members of the media amid the controversy over the Royal B.C. Museum when she was tourism minister. She said many of her accomplishments went overlooked.
“I think the Opposition are absolutely awful,” she said. “Women in question period get it worse than men, that’s the bottom line. The nastiness from white men in here is awful. I’ve put up with enough abuse in my life.”
Mark said she will officially resign at the end of March.
Mark, a single mother who is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibway, also revealed she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which means her brain runs “like a Ferrari with bicycle brakes.” She said she wants to focus on raising her “baby eagles,” her two daughters, Makayla, 12, and Maya, 19. Mark’s daughters, mother and extended family sat in the public gallery, many crying as she spoke.
“Enough Indigenous kids have gone without their parents,” she said. “I’m not going to do that.”
Mark’s speech carried similarities to the resignation of 27-year-old Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq who, in a powerful farewell speech, said Canada is a country “stained with blood” that was “created off the backs, trauma and displacement of Indigenous people.”
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general, left the Trudeau government amid the SNC-Lavalin scandal and wrote a book, Indian in the Cabinet, that criticized the prime minister over a lack of progress on Indigenous reconciliation and criminal justice reform.
Mark said she hopes her resignation will not discourage other First Nations women from running for office. “Stop treating us like we’re a whole bunch of angry Indians,” she said. “This is passion. Passion for justice. Passion for better conditions for my people.”