Justin Bieber? If you’re reading this, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples would like you to give them a call.
In late July, a profile of Mr. Bieber in Rolling Stone magazine’s August issue went viral. It wasn’t Mr. Bieber’s bewitching bedroom eyes on the cover that set the Internet abuzz (it’s fine, he’s legal now), but an aside he made to writer Josh Eells:
“I’m actually part Indian,” he said. “I think Inuit or something? I’m enough per cent that in Canada I can get free gas.”
Concerned Mr. Bieber’s misconception could spread to millions of his impressionable fans, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples issued a statement on Friday to make clear that no, Aboriginal people do not get free gas.
“We have enough issues with racism and stereotyping,” said Dwight Dorey, the congress’s national vice-chief. “A young, high-profile entertainer like Justin has a huge following. He has a major impact on young people. That concerns me.”
He also wasn’t thrilled Mr. Bieber used the word “Indian.”
“That’s a term that our people in Canada have been moving away from for years,” he explained, and said the 18-year-old singer is “now at an age to be responsible for statements such as this.”
But the congress hasn’t written Mr. Bieber off for believing that aboriginal people enjoy this non-existent perk. In fact, it hopes Mr. Bieber gets in touch.
“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,” Mr. Dorey said.
Mr. Bieber’s publicist could not be reached to determine whether Mr. Bieber is, in fact, part aboriginal. Or if he gets free gas when he’s in Canada.
While the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has extended the olive branch to Mr. Bieber, other aboriginal leaders weren’t quite so forgiving.
Edward John, the Grand Chief of the Tl'azt'en Nation in B.C., expressed frustration on Twitter over the free-gas comment:
“Rolling Stone- ‘Bieber free gas’! tell us where there is free gas! It's just wrong and he should correct it!” he tweeted on July 25, along with a mobile photo of the magazine’s controversial passage.
Ellen Gabriel, who ran for chief of the Assembly of First Nations, chastised Mr. Bieber directly on Twitter as well: “@justinbieber When r u going 2 Apologize 2 Aboriginal ppls n Canada 4 disrespectful comment re: “Free Gas” U R promoting racist stereotypes,” she wrote on July 28.
Mr. Bieber’s ignorance aside, the questions remain of where or why he could get free – or even discounted – gas.
First Nations people in Ontario are exempt from the provincial gas tax of 14.7 cents per litre if they have a gas card (issued by the Ministry of Finance) – but that’s only if they’re buying gas on a reserve. A remote possibility for Mr. Bieber, who drives a chrome-coloured Fisker Karma sports car and hails from Stratford, Ont., and whose father at one time lived in Winnipeg.