Justin Bieber may be able to get the girls swooning and screaming but he seems to have offended some of Canada's aboriginal community over a remark he made in the latest issue of Rolling Stone.
The Biebs is on the cover of Rolling Stone's July 20th issue but it's one of the comments he made inside the magazine that has ticked off a few people. The pop star tells writer Josh Eells: “I’m actually part Indian, I think Inuit or something? I’m enough per cent that in Canada I can get free gas.”
That comment has gone viral. The Globe and Mail says the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples issued a statement on Friday to make it clear that Aboriginal people do not get free gas. The Congress's national vice-chief Dwight Dorey says, “We have enough issues with racism and stereotyping.” “A young, high-profile entertainer like Justin has a huge following. He has a major impact on young people. That concerns me.”
And native Canadians, Dorey included, are not too thrilled that he used the term "Indian" either. “That’s a term that our people in Canada have been moving away from for years.” He says the 18-year old is “now at an age to be responsible for statements such as this.”
The congress is hoping to use the comment to help the singer find out more about his family history. Dorey says, “He indicated some interest in the fact that he has some aboriginal ancestry or thinks he has, and we could assist in tracing his ancestry to determine that.”
But not all Canadian aboriginals are as forgiving. Edward John, the Grand Chief of the Tl'azt'en Nation in B.C., was angry about the free-gas comment. He tweeted, "Rolling Stone- ‘Bieber free gas’! tell us where there is free gas! It's just wrong and he should correct it!”
Ellen Gabriel, who ran for chief of the Assembly of First Nations, sent out her own tweet: “@justinbieber When r u going 2 Apologize 2 Aboriginal ppls n Canada 4 disrespectful comment re: “Free Gas” U R promoting racist stereotypes.”
The National Post, says The Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto is offering free admission to Bieber fans for the month of August, and has invited the singer in for a tour the next time he's in town.
Dorey says,“Given that Mr. Bieber is still a young man, and unaware of the facts here, I personally don’t think he should be beat up over this comment. We don’t think he was trying to be malicious, or making a joke of Aboriginal issues.”
Ojibway-Metis comedian Ryan McMahon tells APTN this is just a distraction from the real problem, "I know there are a lot of people waging online war against Bieber, inviting him to the communities to come and see the poverty. The reality is our struggles are on the ground, and I always think that is where our focus should go first."
Cree-Metis hip hop artist Joey Stylez sees a positive side to the controversy. “It’s also kind of cool at the same time. Everyone is associating being hip and cool with being Native American right now. Johnny Depp just got adopted by a tribe down south.” “I think we’re being recognized in pop culture as the ones with the most swag.”
The Globe and Mail suggests the Stratford, Ontario teen's confusion could have come from the fact that First Nations people in Ontario are exempt from the provincial gas tax of 14.7 cents per litre, but only if they have a government issued gas card and only if they are buying gas on a reserve.