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Cobb apologizes for post, Williams Lake City Council passes three motions to work towards reconciliation

Content warning: Residential Schools

Cobb prepared a written statement regarding the Facebook post he shared regarding residential schools.

“I want to state upfront, that I have never supported the concept of residential schools, as I learned of the heartbreak that was inflicted on first nations communities, in hindsight, and I never anticipated or intended to offend or make light of the residential schools and for those I offended, I apologize, and I am sorry. As the article shared was on my personal page and not my mayor’s page, it is my opinion that Williams Lake First Nations’ letter is a personal attack on me, myself. I have no idea what the agenda might be, but this type of dialogue does not strengthen any relationship that we have been trying to build with our surrounding communities. The letter attributes the contents of the social media post to me, but I did not paraphrase any comments made by any individuals through my or any indication that I supported them. The post share was my own, and I don’t think it was fair to involve the rest of council in this discussion, and never at any time, has this council, or any council I have ever been involved in in the twenty-some years I’ve been around here, have we ever suggested that the many atrocities that happened at the residential school were acceptable. We can’t change the things that happened in history or in the past, we can only attempt to ensure they do not happen again.”

After Cobb shared his statement, Councillors were given a chance to respond. Council denounced the sharing of the post and any racist or intolerant actions. Following the discussion, residential school survivor and advocate Charlene Belleau made a presentation on the impacts of residential schools before council.

Charlene Belleau and Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars sing Arthur’s Peace Song at the City Council Meeting, November 2nd 2021 – (D. Bain, My Cariboo Now staff)

“As I was driving down here I was crying, and I thought, ‘where’s my pain coming from, what’s going on?” Belleau said, “I feel hurt, I feel violated as matriarch coming from our communities that have fought hard for our women and our children. I cry because I have grandchildren that deserve better. For the past 32 years, we fought hard to be heard, put our residential school stories on the public record. Our people were sexually abused, not once, twice, ten times, twenty times, just really horrific stories. We no longer will be silenced, today, or ever again.”

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Belleau demanded that Cobb resign as Mayor.

“I reflected on the last 32 years, to me what is so painful about what’s happened with the social media posting, it felt like those 32 years had meant nothing around the table,” said Belleau, “and as mayor, you are responsible for your leadership to your council.”

Council passed three motions following the presentation from Belleau.

Members of the public hold signs for Mayor Cobb to resign at City Council Meeting, November 2nd, 2021 (D. Bain – My Cariboo Now staff)

The first that council passed a resolution stating their 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.

The second was that Council be guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and that they be included as a strategic goal for through the Official Community Plan to help the community through reconciliation.

The third was that council committed by resolution to undertake an anti-racism cultural safety training.

Much of the public in attendance left following the resolutions.

“I’m very disappointed, I felt like there was no courage shown by the Councillors to stand up,” said one member of the public, “and the one thing I appreciate from Mayor Cobb is that he tells you what he thinks, and he’s told us very clearly what he thinks through reposting that, and I think he needs to resign.”

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