At its Regular meeting on November 2, 2021, City of Williams Lake Council responded to correspondence from Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars critical of a recent social media post shared by Mayor Walt Cobb on Friday, October 29 titled ‘Residential schools – the other side of the story.’
Mayor Cobb stated that he has never supported the concept of residential schools, and is aware of the heartbreak inflicted on First Nations communities. “I never anticipated or intend to offend or make light of residential schools, and for those I offended I apologize and am very sorry,” said Mayor Cobb. “The post share was my own, and it is not fair to involve the rest of Council in this discussion. Never at any time has this Council or any that I have been on ever suggested that the many atrocities that happened at any residential schools were acceptable. We can’t change the bad things that happened in history; we can only attempt to ensure they do not happen again, and we need to learn from them.”
At the meeting, Councillors shared their responses to this issue and collectively denounced the sharing of this post, and of any racist or intolerant actions. Councillors expressed their support for advocating for those who were forced to attend residential schools, their families and communities, and recognizing that while we cannot change the past, it is within our power to do better now. Williams Lake is the birthplace of Orange Shirt Day, and Councillors stated they must lead by example and make every effort to contribute to healing, understanding, and relationship building.
For the full discussion, please visit the City of Williams Lake’s recorded live stream of the Council meeting at: www.youtube.com/CityWL.
Following Council’s discussion, residential school survivor and advocate Charlene Belleau made a passionate presentation to provide context on the devastating impacts of residential schools, the investigation occurring at St. Joseph’s Mission and other investigations occurring across the country at former residential school sites. Belleau also talked about the impacts of those investigations – including how detrimental public comments can be to residential school survivors, their families, and communities.
She encouraged Mayor and Council to continue to educate themselves on those impacts, to strive toward reconciliation and to do better.
Council passed a resolution stating its official position that it recognizes and condemns the devastating effects of the 139 residential schools in Canada, and the abuse inflicted on innocent children. Further, Council resolved to continue to take meaningful steps to listen, learn, and advocate for victims and survivors of the residential school system.
In addition, Council passed a resolution that Council be guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, and that they be included as a strategic goal through the Official Community Plan to help the community through reconciliation.
Council has also committed by resolution to undertake an anti-racism cultural safety training program.
The City of Williams Lake remains committed to reconciliation efforts, and will continue to work toward relationship building, increased understanding and action in collaboration with our First Nations neighbours.
Greg Sabatino, Events & Marketing Coordinator
City Hall: 250.392.2311