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

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Clearwater sunrise (Kelly Ludbrook photo)
The Student Journal: Painting Sunrise

The Student Journal is a new section that showcases the work of the local high schoolers.

KalTire presented the Clearwater Secondary School graduating class of 2021 with a cheque for $1,100 on April 6 to help with the teens' fundraising efforts. Allison MacLaren, who works front office, and manager Scott Thomas organized the fundraiser through community donations. Members of the community were asked if they wanted to donate $10 to the cause when they visited the shop for their seasonal tire change overs. MacLaren said a whopping 95 per cent of customers made a donation to the graduating class, raising almost $1,000. Black River Contracting also made a donation to boost the funds to an even $1,000, and with funds from Birch Island Diesel and Bond Tattoo of $100, the total came to $1,100. Thomas, MacLaren and the Class of 2021 would like to thank the community for their generous donations. From l-r: CSS Grad 2021 committee members Julie Simard, Vix Meyer (CSS parent grad president), Mackenzie Ross, Piet Oud and Scott Thomas. (Photo taken by Allison MacLaren)
Clearwater KalTire raises funds for CSS Class of ‘21

KalTire presented the Clearwater Secondary School graduating class of 2021 with a… Continue reading

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

Most Read