Betty Granger

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Betty Granger is a former school trustee in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. During the 2000 federal election, her comments about Asian immigration to Canada provoked a national political controversy.

Granger was 57 years old at the time of the election, and had served for almost ten years as a school trustee. She already known as a prominent figure in Winnipeg, and had taken part in a civic-action protest against plans to restructure traffic policies for the River Heights region in 1994. Granger, and others, argued that the city's plans would lead to congestion, and create chaos for local businesses (Winnipeg Free March, 24 March 1994).

During her time on the Winnipeg school board, Granger was criticized on two separate occasions for allegedly making insensitive remarks about homosexuals and racial minorities. Granger disputed the accusations in both instances.

In 1993, fellow Winnipeg school trustee Bill Sanderson accused her of "intimating that all aboriginal peoples are thieves" following a private conversation (Winnipeg Free Press, 30 July 1993). Sanderson, who is aboriginal, informed Granger that he had purchased a computer from his nephew; Granger responded by saying that it was likely stolen. Granger responded to the controversy by saying she had done nothing to offend, and demanded that Sanderson apologize for his accusation (Winnipeg Free Press, 30 September 1993).

In 1996, the Winnipeg Free Press quoted Granger as saying that students in one particular class were probably performing poorly because they believed their teacher to be gay. She was quoted as saying, "This man is a flamboyant homosexual. He's so effeminate, (students are) put off. The first day of school, this fellow showed up in a bright pink muscle shirt." (Winnipeg Free Press, 14 December 1996) Granger denied making this statement. At a subsequent closed-session meeting of the school board, she moved a motion reaffirming the board's commitment to human rights and non-discrimination (Winnipeg Free Press, 19 December 1996).

A similar controversy arose during the 2000 campaign, although with larger implications. Granger was widely criticized for remarks that she made to University of Winnipeg students concerning an "Asian invasion". She was quoted as saying that "Canadian students can't get into some of our university programs in Vancouver and Victoria" because of an influx of Asian students, and made reference to "a well-monied population buying up blocks and blocks of real estate" in British Columbia (Broadcast News, 18 November 2000). Concerning a recent influx of refugees from Hong Kong, she was quoted as saying "There was a realization that what was coming off these boats was not the best clientele you would want for this country."[1]

Granger later offered a formal apology, saying, "I apologize for my remarks and any misunderstandings made at the University of Winnipeg. I am on record for increased immigration into Manitoba and my community". (Winnipeg Free Press, 19 November 2000). Granger suspended her campaign shortly after making the comments, although her name remained on the ballot (Canadian Press, 20 November 2000). She also claimed she had been pressured to withdraw by the office of party leader Stockwell Day, Manitoba campaign chair Clayton Manness and others (Canadian Press, 20 November 2000).

She received 3,210 votes (8.53%) in the election, finishing fourth against Liberal candidate Anita Neville. After the election, she was censured by the Winnipeg School Board for her comments. Granger herself voted for the censure motion, and acknowledged that her comments had been offensive. She also expressed regret that some people had congratulated her for her remarks. (Winnipeg Free Press, 5 December 2000)

Her brother, former Libertarian Party candidate Dennis Owens, later claimed that Granger's remarks had been taken out of context, and noted that most of her speech had addressed the need for more immigration to Canada (Winnipeg Free Press, 14 February 2001).

Granger was hired as a campaign organizer for Stephen Harper in 2002, as Harper successfully challenged Stockwell Day for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance (Winnipeg Free Press, 15 January 2002).

In the immediate aftermath to the 2000 controversy, Granger announced that she would not seek re-election to the Winnipeg school board in 2002. She later reconsidered, and declared herself a candidate for re-election. She was defeated, finishing sixth in a district which elected three board members (Winnipeg Free Press, 24 October 2002). In 2004, she was appointed by the Winnipeg School Board for a two-year term on a committee overseeing the Children's Heritage Fund (Winnipeg Free Press, 30 November 2004).