Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars prepares to leave an event in Williams Lake Wednesday afternoon (June 17). Sellars was still upset by comments made the night before by Williams Lake City Council. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars prepares to leave an event in Williams Lake Wednesday afternoon (June 17). Sellars was still upset by comments made the night before by Williams Lake City Council. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

B.C. First Nation calling for Williams Lake councillor to resign over residential school remarks

Chief Willie Sellars said comments were shocking and disturbing

The Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) is calling for the resignation of a city councillor and an apology from the City of Williams Lake.

The demand comes following comments made about the history of residential schools at a Williams Lake City Council meeting Tuesday, June 16 where Coun. Marnie Brenner, herself Indigenous, said there ‘are always two sides’ to reconciliation and that not everyone had a negative experience at residential school.

WLIB Chief Willie Sellars, who was still visibly upset Wednesday afternoon while he attended a First Nations Role Model event in the lakecity, said the statements were shocking, upsetting and offensive and has caused him to lose sleep.

He deferred further comment, however, to a news release issued by himself and the community.

“Can you imagine if a government official in the United States stood up and said that slavery wasn’t such a bad thing because black Americans were fed and had a roof over their heads? There would be incredible outrage, and rightfully so,” Sellars stated. “We are in an era where the vast majority of people, including elected officials, are working hard to acknowledge the problems of the past and to root out systemic discrimination. The fact that Coun. Brenner is herself a First Nations individual makes it even worse.”

The comments Brenner made were following council discussion on a resolution to hold a 30-day online public survey to solicit public feedback on plans by WLIB to build a farm-to-gate cannabis manufacturing facility on Indian Reserve #6 within city limits.

The facility is slated to be built on South MacKenzie Ave. beside the WLIB’s current Indigenous Bloom retail cannabis shop, near the entrance to the Scout Island Nature Centre.

Tensions have been mounting between the two governments in recent months over the facility, and also the City’s bid to move a Gold Rush-era heritage store onto city lands where First Nations artifacts have been identified. Development in that location, overlooking the Stampede Grounds, has been opposed by WLIB.

City leaders, in particular Mayor Walt Cobb and Coun. Scott Nelson, have in recent weeks questioned whether it is right for the WLIB to be able to develop their lands within the city without consultation with city residents.

The public survey which council is pushing ahead will not stop WLIB’s plans, Sellars recently confirmed.

WLIB Councillor Joanne Moiese noted Wednesday it is disturbing any elected official would try to downplay the importance of reconciliation, or a local government’s obligations in relation to reconciliation by suggesting that residential schools weren’t really such a bad thing.

Read More: City to launch public survey about Williams Lake Indian Band cannabis cultivation facility

“Our community, and First Nations communities across the country, are still struggling to overcome the impacts of residential schools,” Moiese noted. “Children were ripped from their homes, they were stripped of their culture and language and they were physically and sexually abused. The reality, though, is that there was only one residential school in this area — St. Joseph’s. Apparently Councillor Brenner isn’t aware of that.”

The St. Joseph’s Mission became a residential school for Indigenous children in 1886. Operating for 95 years, it did not close until June 30, 1981.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released by the Government of Canada in 2015 condemned the residential school system in which children were sexually and physically abused. More 3,200 deaths of First Nation children in residential school were documented although TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair has suggested the number of deaths is likely closer to 6,000, noted WLIB.

Read More: Museum revisits difficult past in new exhibit

WLIB Councillor and elder Rick Gilbert said it’s upsetting anyone would attempt to diminish the impact that residential schools had on First Nations communities.

“We hear people say things like ‘just get over it, it wasn’t such a big deal’. Clearly those people are not understanding the gravity of the issue or the impacts it has had on Canadian society for generations now,” Gilbert said. “People need to educate themselves about the realities of this piece of Canadian history, and it’s very encouraging that there will finally be some curriculum content in the school system.”

Black Press Media has reached out to Coun. Brenner for comment.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousWilliams Lake

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Williams Lake’s City Council members Coun. Scott Nelson (from left) Coun. Marnie Brenner, Mayor Walt Cobb, Coun. Sheila Boehm, Coun. Ivan Bonnell and chief administrator officer Milo MacDonald gathered to celebrate the opening of a bridge in Williams Lake. (Patrick Davies photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake’s City Council members Coun. Scott Nelson (from left) Coun. Marnie Brenner, Mayor Walt Cobb, Coun. Sheila Boehm, Coun. Ivan Bonnell and chief administrator officer Milo MacDonald gathered to celebrate the opening of a bridge in Williams Lake. (Patrick Davies photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Just Posted

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Rain clouds were absent for most of April in the West Kootenay. Photo: Betsy Kline
April precipitation only one-third of normal in West Kootenay

Third month in a row with below average rain fall

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Central Mountain Air will be flying seven days a week this summer. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air increases Castlegar flights

West Kootenay Regional Airport will see flights to Vancouver seven days a week this summer

Photo: RCMP
Rossland pedestrian dies after being pinned between 2 vehicles

RCMP Sgt. advises that victim services is available for anyone requiring help

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read