Editor’s note: The contents of this article may be disturbing or triggering. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has a 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.
The city of Williams Lake said it will be formally responding this week to an open letter written by the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) Chief Willie Sellars which criticizes the mayor for sharing a social media post on his personal Facebook page about residential schools.
The city issued a news release Saturday night (Oct. 30) noting it is “addressing the matter sincerely and seriously.”
“We received the letter Friday and have had ongoing discussions throughout the weekend between city staff and members of council, and we will be providing a formal response on Tuesday, Nov. 2 during our regular Council meeting,” stated Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Gary Muraca. “The City of Williams Lake takes this matter seriously, and continues to work toward meaningful reconciliation.”
The post, which the mayor shared late Friday morning Oct. 27, but has since been removed, includes the words, ‘most of the older generation that did suffer are long dead and gone or have forgiven’ and ‘it seems to me that many of the new generations just want to be victims and feel the money would solve their pain.’
When contacted by Black Press Media, the mayor said he didn’t necessarily agree with any posts he shares on social media, rather he shares posts about different points of view.
“I think we need to look at every side of everything,” he said Friday.
Cobb has drawn wide criticism for sharing the post.
In his open letter, Sellars pressed Williams Lake City Council to clarify its position in relation to the mayor, and to residential schools and the impacts they have had on First Nations people. Personally, he said the sharing of the post is offensive.
“We can no longer abide the City of Williams Lake, or any of its elected officials, trying to advance a narrative which is a slap in the face to our community, to other First Nations communities, or to the vast majority of Canadians who acknowledge the horror of residential schools and who want to assist with reconciliation,” Sellars wrote.
“Bluntly stated, there is no place for Mayor Cobb or his dogma in today’s world. He may hide behind the fact that he is “merely sharing a post” – but his agenda is clear … Mayor Cobb isn’t convinced that the criticism of that residential school system is legitimate.”
In its news release, the City of Williams Lake said it remains committed to reconciliation efforts in collaboration with their First Nations neighbours moving forward.
In June 2020, Cobb and city council members were criticized for comments about the positive aspects of residential schools during a regular council meeting.