Quesnel city council censures mayor for controversial residential education book

Quesnel City Councilors voted unanimously Tuesday to sanction and censure the city’s mayor, Ron Paull.

The council said the actions taken were because Paull jeopardized the city’s relationship with Indigenous communities after he brought a controversial book to a Cariboo Regional District meeting in March.

Critics said the book downplays the history of residential schools.

Councilors said the mayor attempted to distribute the book at the meeting, prompting one councilor to say publicly that the controversy had damaged the community’s reputation.

“I don’t know how we’re going to repair it, but I hope tonight is the beginning of that… how we view ourselves internationally, how we can repair our relationships with Indigenous people,” Councilman Scott Elliot said Tuesday.

The mayor has denied the idea that he was trying to distribute the book.

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“Yes, I’m sorry I chose the wrong book, but it was spontaneous,” Paull said at a meeting.

“I did, but like I said, I just wasn’t distributing or giving the book to anyone.”

As part of the sanctions, Paull has been removed from his travel and lobbying budgets, from most municipal committees, from Indigenous relations and from organizations that require council approval.

The mayor must also apologize.

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On Wednesday, the Cariboo Regional District issued a statement regarding the censure.

“We are aware that the Quesnel City Council has censured Mayor Ron Paull and, as a result, has revoked his appointment as a member of the CRD board of directors,” a spokesperson said.

“We will welcome the new municipal representative to the board of directors once he has been selected by the Quesnel city council. “Our board, as a whole, remains committed to the principles of reconciliation and strengthening our relationships with all Cariboo and Chilcotin Indigenous governments.”

Click to play video: 'Council slams BC mayor's wife for distributing controversial book on residential schools'

Council slams BC mayor’s wife for distributing controversial book on residential schools

In March, the Lhtako Dene Nation in British Columbia’s Cariboo region said its community was outraged that Paull’s wife, Pat Morton, was allegedly circulating the same book, which dismisses the horrors of residential schools.

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Quesnel city councilors condemned Morton’s actions and discussed a letter written by the nation that said the book is a slap in the face.

“It has come to our attention that a person associated (with) the city’s elected (officials) has been distributing a book titled Big Mistake: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth About Residential Schools)” reads the letter to the council.

“This book makes a lot of harsh comments, including ‘the truth has become a victim,’ implying that a cultural genocide did not occur, and basically questioning the existence of Indian residential schools.”

The nation said it should not have to defend the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, nor the experiences of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, Williams Lake First Nation and other nations that have been “so severely punished” by the book.

At that time, Count. Tony Goulet, whose father attended residential school, called the book shocking, while Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg said the actions of the mayor’s wife reflect on him, the council and the community.

“There is no excuse for this type of behavior in our community, period,” Roodenburg said.

“And I don’t care if you think it’s your own opinion or whether you have the right to express it. “It’s about how you show our community to the rest of BC and the world.”

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Global News contacted the mayor, who declined to comment or provide a statement.

The Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

The Hope for Wellness Helpline offers culturally competent counseling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous people experiencing trauma, distress, strong emotions and painful memories. You can contact the line anytime toll-free at 1-855-242-3310.

– with files from Amy Judd, Doyle Potenteau

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