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One of PEI’s Only Non-White Political Candidates Had Signs Defaced with Racist Slur

Jacqueline Tuplin is only the second aboriginal woman to run for office in Canada's smallest province.

by Kate McKenna
Apr 29 2015, 9:19pm

Jacqueline Tuplin with her defaced poster. Photos courtesy NDP PEI

An aboriginal candidate running in the Prince Edward Island provincial election says she's "moving ahead" with her campaign after someone vandalized one of her election signs with an offensive slur.

Jacqueline Tuplin, an NDP candidate for the Island's May 4th election, discovered her sign had been vandalized yesterday. In what looks like black sharpie, someone scrawled "squaw" across Tuplin's face.

"Yesterday morning wasn't the greatest of mornings for me," she said in a Facebook video.

"I am very disappointed, to say the least, and saddened by this act of animosity directed towards me."

Tuplin is a Mi'kmaw woman, and the second aboriginal woman to run for office on PEI. Her riding includes the Lennox First Nation, of which she is a member.

She declined requests to be interviewed by VICE, saying she'd like to put the incident behind her. But in a statement, she acknowledged she's "not the first, not the last" to be subjected to misogynistic racism.

"I do hope that should the person/persons responsible for this offensive and disparaging act realize how degrading this is and never commit it again," she said.

After posting a picture of the defaced sign on Facebook and Twitter, candidates of all stripes, including the sitting premier, have reached out to Tuplin to offer support.

Among those offering support is Becka Viau, a Green Party candidate who has been outspoken about obstacles facing women in PEI politics. Only 29.5 percent of candidates running in this year's election are women, and the vast majority of those women are in the third and fourth place parties. (The NDP and Green Party have elected the grand total of one person to office in their combined history.)

Viau is quick to highlight that what happened to Tuplin's signs looks like racist misogyny, an obstacle beyond the barriers most women on PEI running for office need suffer.

She's calling for an all-party response to the vandalism.

"I hope that [Tuplin's district] stands up together united and declares that their district is a safe place for indigenous women to run in politics."

The Island's NDP leader, Mike Redmond, called the incident "hateful," but said it's an isolated incident that doesn't jive with the province's self-propagating (and perhaps fictional) stereotypes.

"This incident does not reflect the values of generosity and community that Islanders are famous for," he said.

Others aren't so sure this isn't part of a more systematic race problem on the Island

"I'd like to say, yes, it surprised me," said Don MacKenzie, executive director of the PEI Mi'kmaq Confederacy. "But I can't say I was totally surprised because there is still an undercurrent of racism there."

About 2,000 people of the province's 140,000 people identify as aboriginal. The vast majority of those people are Mi'kmaq.

MacKenzie called the vandalism "appalling" and lauds Tuplin's strategy of "taking the high road," and carrying on with her campaign.

"To the community, I would say don't be demoralized," he said.

The RCMP say they've opened an investigation into the case. Sgt. Leanne Butler says the investigation will consider whether the crime meets the criteria to be considered a hate crime.

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