Current Problems

Urban Commitments to Reconciliation

Rural Manitoba politician suspended in fallout from offensive remarks

August 28, 2023

By Kathleen Martens

Andy Kuczynski suggested First Nations people would take up beds proposed nursing home

Doug Murray and his wife stand by the RM of Springfield sign in rural Manitoba. Photo courtesy Tony Zerucha 

A rural Manitoba politician is no longer sharing his opinion on “truth and reconciliation.” Coun. Andy Kuczynski has been suspended without pay for seven days by the Rural Municipality of Springfield for remarks he made at an Aug. 8 council meeting.

He was also ordered to attend cultural awareness training at his own expense.

But he refused to step down when confronted by Doug Murray, a Cree man who lives in Kuczynski’s ward in the bedroom community east of Winnipeg. “Before I asked him to resign, before I got that out of my mouth, he said, ‘No’,” said Doug Murray, a member of Cumberland House First Nation, who spoke at the next public council meeting on Aug. 15.

“And then I said, ‘Are you willing to take cultural sensitivity training and truth and reconciliation training?’” And he replied with, ‘If I have to.’”

Springfield is home to a growing number of retirees, some of whom are lobbying for the construction of a personal care home.

“This Springfield Taxpayers Association actually contacted me … because they know I have contacts in Indigenous communities,” said Murray, who used to work for the R.M. “And they asked me for a contact who would write them a letter of support for this [retirement home] project.”

Murray said this happened “long before” the present controversy.

“I asked, ‘How many beds are for Indigenous people? And [they] said, ‘It’s Springfield priority.’ “I get that part, but I did say to him I’m not going to tell my boss to write a letter of support unless there’s designated beds for our people.”

Murray, who works for a tribal organization, said Kuczynski then “twisted” his comments on Aug. 8. “His tone is what got me the most,” said Murray, noting his wife warned him to be careful because there are “haters out there that will support [Andy Kuczynski].” “They’re out there, but it’s just giving me more inspiration to know they’re out there,” Murray added in a telephone interview with APTN News.

Kuczynski’s remarks were first made public by the Facebook group Oakbank Rant & Rave from an audio recording of the Aug. 8 council meeting.

On the recording, Kuczynski wondered if a new seniors complex would attract people from First Nations communities in the north and bring more “Native people” to Springfield. “If there is senior citizens and people that need assisted living or whatever some place up north, they are going to bring them here, because they say truth and reconciliation, so I know what that means,” Kuczynski said.

“They will bring lots of people, probably Native people here to this community.”

Also, Kuczynski suggested it would be difficult to turn Indigenous people away if they are seeking housing in Springfield, which has a population of about 16,000. “At this point we don’t have it but it’s going to happen,” he continued on the recording. “You’re never going to say, ‘No, we’re not going to accept these people.’”

After his words were questioned online and by Murray, Kuczynski said he was sorry and didn’t mean to cause offense. “That certainly was not my intention,” he said in a statement emailed to APTN while declining an interview request.

Mayor Patrick Therrien noted the decision to suspend Kuczynski was unanimous.

“The RM of Springfield will continually work to create an environment of inclusivity and respect that embodies genuine truth and reconciliation,” Therrien said in a statement emailed to APTN. “It is up to all of us to make a commitment to foster an environment where diversity is celebrated and upheld within the RM of Springfield.”

Murray said he needed to see Kuczynski in person – and on the record. “I wanted to question Andy face to face and hear the words out of his own mouth,” Murray told APTN. “Not a written statement that somebody else wrote for him.”

Even though Kuczynski’s supporters were shouting him down, Murray said he demanded Kuczynski take responsibility for his actions.

“It wasn’t only me asking for that,” Murray added. “It was also Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Southern Chiefs Organization’, which sent letters seeking a review of Kuczynski’s comments.


Kathleen Martens,