A rural B.C. mayor is being bombarded with calls to resign, following a Facebook post that’s being called racist against Indigenous people.
Lorraine Michetti, mayor of Pouce Coupe, a small village in northeast B.C. near the Alberta border, posted photos of garbage-strewn lawns with the comment, “Don’t want Pipeline’s? They want to protect our land. Yeah ok.”
Council reacted quickly, voting to remove Michetti of her mayoral duties, though it lacks the legal power to remove her from office.
Michetti is refusing to step down, saying the post was taken out of context and misunderstood.
Her initial response was to share an apology letter, saying she understood the photo was a “grave mischaracterization of who the First Nation and Metis people are and for that I apologize.”
Michetti told Black Press Media the image was actually a few years old, and she realized at the time it was inappropriate and removed it. But last week, someone sent her a screenshot of the old post, in a way the mayor interpreted as blackmail. Rather than waiting for that person to share it, Michetti posted it herself, she said.
It caught the attention of local Indigenous peoples, who were offended.
Tammy Lee Watson is a former councillor for the Saulteau First Nation, who also used to work as an Indigenous advisor to the provincial government.
“In all the years I had been involved in politics, we had developed a First Nations competency program to help governments and other people get close to understanding our differences, and really helping people understand the definition of racism,” she said.
“We have many people who claim, ‘I’m not racist, I’ve lived with First Nations people my whole life,’ but then they can still make statements like that.”
Michetti agreed to attend a cultural awareness program, which can be a good first step, Watson said, but added, “You don’t get to have a certificate and say, ‘I’m not racist anymore.’ You need to spend time with people in the community, travel to the reservations and take a good look at how her information is misconstrued. For one, the nations here haven’t protested a pipeline.”
Watson wants to see Michetti apologize publicly, admit the comment was racist, and make a real commitment to visit the communities.
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