Concerned about people believing Justin Bieber’s claim that he’s eligible for free gas because of his possible aboriginal heritage (he doesn’t know, according to what he told Rolling Stone in a recent cover story, whether he’s Indian or Inuit), a national aboriginal group has issued a statement to set the record straight.
“Mr. Bieber is a worldwide celebrity,” said Betty Ann Lavallée, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, in an August 2 statement, complete with italic emphasis. “Because of this fact, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples feels that it is important to clear up misconceptions caused by statements made by influential individuals, concerning Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Mr. Bieber’s comment that aboriginal people are entitled to free gas is simply not true. These kinds of remarks are another example of what aboriginal peoples in Canada struggle with every day. It promotes the misconception that we are somehow getting a free ride. This simply is not the case, and we are concerned that many people may believe what he said.”
Giving Bieber a pass because of his youth, Lavallé and Vice Chief Dwight Dorey, whose Ottawa-based group represents Métis and non-status Indians throughout Canada, according to its website, offered the 18-year-old pop star assistance in tracing his roots.
“We would be happy to help him in this regard,” Dorey said. “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.”
Lavallée said discovering these roots would stand Bieber in good stead in many areas of life, stating, “It’s important for someone to know where they come from, which helps give them a better understanding of where they are going.”
Bieber’s comments caused a firestorm in the press and irritated many in Indian country both north and south of the 49th Parallel. Some, like the Aboriginal Congress, are grabbing the opportunity to make this a teaching moment. The Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto is offering free admission for the month of August.