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Quesnel censures mayor in wake of residential school book controversy

Council disciplined the mayor for jeopardizing their relationship with Indigenous communities
Quesnel mayor Ron Paull (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Quesnel city council took steps this week to discipline Mayor Ron Paull for jeopardizing relations with Lhtako Dene Nation and other Indigenous communities in the region.

At the Tuesday evening council meeting April 30, council moved to censure Paull and imposed all sanctions available them, removing his travel and lobbying budgets, removing him from organizations that require council approval including the Cariboo Regional District representation, Northern Development Initiative Trust, city committees and Indigenous relations and requiring a sincere apology.

On Wednesday, Cariboo Regional District (CRD) board chair, Margo Wagner, issued a statement regarding Paull being censured by council.

“We are aware that Quesnel’s city council has censured Mayor Ron Paull, and revoked his appointment to the CRD’s board of directors as a result,’ noted Wagner. “We will welcome the new municipal representative to the Board once they have been selected by Quesnel’s City Council. Our Board as a whole remains committed to the principles of reconciliation and strengthening our relationships with all the Indigenous governments in the Cariboo and Chilcotin.”

According to a staff report which guided council, they could not remove responsibilities from Paull that are assigned via the Community Charter.

“For example, Community Charter Sec 116(2)(c) states that the Mayor is to preside at council meetings when in attendance. So, Council could not remove his right to be the presiding member at council meetings.”

Last month a contingent of First Nations chiefs, residential school survivors and descendants, and community at large attend a council meeting and called for the resignation of Paull.

Paull refused, saying the problems he is at the centre of are his opportunity to learn and work towards reconciliation.

The controversy stemmed from the mayor’s wife, Pat Morton, distributing and complimenting the book Grave Error, a collection of essays themed on how the residential school system was, in their view, not as bad as modern commentary has made it out to be, and the lack of forensic proof of graves at those sites overrides the claims that children in large numbers died at those schools.

First Nations of the area were upset at Paull’s involvement and follow-up response, saying anything less than utter repudiation of the book’s themes was tantamount to broken trust between Quesnel City Hall and the suffering communities with which the City of Quesnel was purportedly wishing to do business in good faith.

Adding fuel to the fire, 100 Mile House mayor Maureen Pinkney and Wagner said Paull tried to share to book with them at a CRD meeting, something Paull has denied.

- with a file from Frank Peebles

READ MORE: First Nations leaders ask Quesnel mayor to resign in wake of book controversy

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

I began my journalism career in daily and weekly newspapers in Alberta.
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