EDMONTON -- A Slave Lake town councillor has apologized for comments she made at a town council meeting that were later denounced by a nearby First Nation as “callous, cruel and racist.”

On Sept. 8, Coun. Joy McGregor gave an update to council on the local Homeless Coalition.

A video of her update is posted on the town’s YouTube channel where recordings of council meetings are shared. 

“A lot of our (homeless) people are coming from Trout, Loon, Atikameg, Wabasca. They’re not even from our community,” McGregor said, naming several Alberta Indigenous communities.

“We need to work to get them home. We need to stop being so nice to them. We need to stop feeding them. We need to stop doing all these wondering things,” McGregor continued, without specifying what help is being provided.

The Driftpile Cree Nation responded to McGregor’s comments with a press release on Sunday calling for its members to boycott Slave Lake.

“Driftpile Cree Nation is of the view that neither the approach, nor the language used by Councillor McGregor are appropriate or acceptable - particularly in the era of reconciliation between First Nations and Canada,” the news release said.

McGregor apologized in a statement to CTV News Edmonton on Monday.

“I acknowledge that I have upset many people by using language that was inconsiderate...I am deeply sorry to you all and those affected by poor choice of language and the feelings you have felt since the September town council meeting,” she wrote.

Chief Dwayne Laboucan told CTV News Edmonton Monday that the comments were unacceptable.

“It's kind of our local town in our community that we support. And to hear that one of their town councillors is saying that stuff about indigenous people like that, it just hit home,” Laboucan said. “And we just said enough’s enough.”

The issue has come to a head after the local Native Friendship Centre was recently denied a re-zoning application for a supportive services building in Slave Lake. The plan was to include transitional housing in that building.

Funding for the shelter was said to be available from Alberta’s Community Mat Program which provides people experiencing homelessness with a temporary place to stay and connections to support services.

“I had a gentleman at the Friendship Centre a couple of weeks ago and he came to thank me, and he said ‘if it wasn’t for the mat program I probably would have died two year ago,’” Barb Courtorielle, executive director of the local Native Friendship Centre told council Nov. 3.

Slave Lake Council voted against that rezoning.


On Nov. 5, Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman posted a YouTube video in which he addressed the controversy in the town.

“Unfortunately on social media things got a little crazy last night. They (commenters) talked about council not caring and council lack of knowledge and council wants to see people die. Even some of their board members talking about the fact that council should rot in hell,” Warman said.

The mayor also called for calm and clarified that council did not decide against a homeless shelter, instead councillors voted to keep the proposed building zoned as commercial instead of granting institutional status.

Warman did not address McGregor’s comments, but she did immediately after making them.

“I know that that sounds horrible and there will be people down my throat for it. But they have to be accountable. And we have to get them home,” McGregor told council on Sept. 8.

McGregor said one the problems she sees is homeless people gathering to charge phones and iPads at exterior plug-ins at the local college.

She said the RCMP and bylaw officers won’t move the people from the area - and listed stealing and substance abuse as issues she sees.

“Hand sanitizer is the latest and greatest. So it’s out in bins, well they’re stealing that and they’re drinking it,” McGregor said.

“You know we had to put the Gravol and the Sudafed and everything behind the thing and now the Lysol and the mouthwash, well we might have to do that will the sanitizer too because people use it and abuse it,” McGregor said.

McGregor said in September she wanted to help homeless people get sober and housed but questioned the strategies being used in the area. 

She ended her apology letter on Monday with a vow to do better.

“I understand this letter of apology will not undo the harm and this moment speaks to bigger issues of systemic racism in our community. I leave this apology with you while I do my best to show this community that I will do everything I can do to ensure this does not happen again from a group of leaders who represent you,” McGregor wrote.


In a late afternoon Zoom press conference, Warman repeatedly refused to answer if he considered McGregor’s comments racist or not.

“I think what she said was not appropriate and I don’t have the expertise to tell you what’s racist and what isn’t,” Warman said.

Responding to a question about why no one on council denounced the comments until now, Warman said he should have spoken up initially as the chair of the meeting, but said he doesn’t think it was an example of institutional racism.

“Do I think there’s systematic racism I think Slave Lake? No. But I don’t think there’s any community anywhere in the world who can say they don’t have some form of racism in their community,” Warman said, referring to some comments online in support of what McGregor said. 

The mayor said his interest now is in rebuilding relationships with neighbouring communities and learning to do better as a council.