Treaty 8 leadership calls for B.C. mayor to resign after racist messages come to light

‘There is no place for such racist, inappropriate and hateful comments in British Columbia,’ says statement.

First Nations leaders from Treaty 8 met on video conference with Pouce Coupe Mayor Lorraine Michetti and the town’s council days after it was reported that she posted racist messages towards Indigenous and Jewish Peoples on social media.

“There is no place for such racist, inappropriate and hateful comments in British Columbia,” said Marlene Greyeyes, executive director of Treaty 8 Tribal Association to Michetti and the Pouce Coupe council. “As the leaders of our respective communities, we feel the need to stand up against this anti-Indigenous racism and advocate for zero tolerance.

“For these reasons and the spirit of working together, the Treaty 8 Tribal Association stands together with other leaders of the Peace Region to unconditionally denounce Mayor Michetti’s actions and comments and demand her immediate resignation.”

The Village of Pouce Coupe, population 792, is located in Treaty 8 territory in northeastern B.C. alongside the Alberta border.

On Feb. 18, Michetti posted on Facebook pictures of garbage outside of houses in unidentified First Nations communities, with a caption that read: ‘Don’t want pipelines? They want to protect our land? Yeah, ok.’ It’s not clear how she chose these photos.  

In another social media post, Michetti compared herself to a Jewish person sent to a concentration camp after Canada implemented a ban of a number of long guns.

Pouce Coupe council members issued at statement after the posts were brought to their attention on Feb. 20, apologizing to anyone offended by her racial and harmful comments.

Later, the village council called for the mayor’s resignation stating they did not have the power to remove her from office.

On Feb. 21, Michetti wrote a letter to the local paper, Dawson Creek Mirror, addressing her social media posts and calls for her resignation.

“The controversial meme that has been shared on social media since Friday, was a post I shared more than a year or two ago,” she wrote. “I have formally apologized for this post, and will continue to do so as we all move forward. I love serving Pouce Coupe, it’s people and working with our neighbours.

“This post does not change who I am, and for those that know me, have worked with me on council, or businesses and residents in the community who have become friends, know that my loyalty and dedication to serving them is unparalleled.”

Treaty 8

In a public statement released March 1, Treaty 8 leadership said it can no longer have a working relationship with the mayor.

“Unfortunately, Ms. Michetti’s ongoing conduct since her election in 2016 does not reflect any of our core values or principles. Recent developments make it impossible for us to work with Ms. Michetti in her role as Mayor of Pouce Coupe moving forward,” the statement said.

“Ms. Michetti’s posts on social media reflect a deeply ingrained racism against Indigenous peoples.”

On Feb. 22, a council meeting was held where members confronted her on her social media posts and her not wanting to step down.

Pouce Coupe council member Ken Drover questioned Michetti post about waiting in a cattle car.

“That is a terrible, terrible comparison. How dare you compare yourself to a Jewish person,” he stated.

In that meeting, Michetti said she has apologized and plans to take cultural sensitivity training but does not plan to remain in her role as mayor.

Treaty 8 leadership called her cultural sensitivity training was “merely window dressing.”

Richard Mineault, a Cree man who grew up in Pouce Coupe, runs the First Nations Awareness course.

The course addresses cultural indifference and racism in the workforce.

He’s offers his services to local business – and held talks with Michetti to take his course.

But since their initial meeting, trust has eroded, and Mineault believes the mayor needs to step down.

“Most of the people have come to the conclusion, no matter what she does from here on in, her behavior and her actions and her words cannot swept under the rug so to speak. Which is what we get the impression she is trying to do,” he said in a phone interview with APTN News.

On Feb. 24, Michetti told APTN that she has apologized and planned to pay for cultural sensitively training on her own and has reached out to multiple First Nations and Metis leaders to make things right.

“I have sent an email to Treaty 8 for delegation, to come up and apologize and ask the Treaty 8’s to forgive me and try teach me to stop being insensitive,” she said in a phone interview.

But then she said the amount of backlash she has received has then turned into online bullying.

“Enough is enough; I have said I’m sorry and I am trying to do the necessary things to take the courses,” she said.

Chief Trevor Makadahay of Doig River First Nation finished said the mayor’s post has harmed the relationships built in the Peace region.

“It’s very disheartening to realize that racism still lives, I understand from your post the pictures that were on your post were from a community that is living in third world conditions with a boil water advisory; those pictures shouldn’t have been posted.”

The meeting finished with Michetti addressing the Treaty 8 First Nations leadership and let them know she would not be resigning.

“I’m sorry, I won’t be stepping down because you guys can learn to meet me too, you guys can get to learn to know me too,” she said at the meeting on March 1.

There is an online petition with over one thousand signatures calling for the mayor of Pouce Coupe’s resignation.

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