May 27th, 2024

Quesnel, B.C., censures mayor, saying his actions jeopardize Indigenous relations

By The Canadian Press on May 2, 2024.

Cutouts of orange T-shirts are hung on a fence outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Kamloops, B.C., Thursday, July 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

QUESNEL, B.C. – Councillors in Quesnel, B.C., have voted unanimously to censure their mayor, saying his actions related to a book denying the harms of Canada’s residential school system jeopardize the city’s relationship with Indigenous communities.

Coun. Scott Elliott made the motion, telling council that all the work that has been done to rebrand the city has been “demolished” by Mayor Ron Paull’s actions.

A report to council says Paull “attempted to distribute” a copy of the book, titled “Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools),” at a Cariboo Regional District board meeting where he was representing the city.

Paull denied “distributing” the book and told Tuesday’s meeting that his work on advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is a matter of public record.

The book’s editors introduce it as a response to what they described as “moral panic unleashed” after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced in May 2021 that it had identified what it believed to be the unmarked graves of more than 200 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the mayor read a letter saying he brought his wife’s copy of the book to a Cariboo Regional District meeting and showed it to two colleagues in the context of wondering what the district’s library might do with it.

Paull said he would give those “launching this charge” against him “the benefit of the doubt,” adding “thisis all based on a misunderstanding.”

He said one of his colleagues claimed he had referred to the book as a “good read,” but he has not read it so he couldn’t have made such a direct statement.

“I do recall, however, saying that according to the online reviews of the book, many reviewers noted the book as a ‘good read,'” Paull said in his letter to council.

The mayor apologized for “picking the wrong book” to bring to the regional district meeting in nearby Williams Lake, B.C., saying he “didn’t mean any harm.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2024.

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