Lorraine Michetti is under fire over social media posts that critics deemed racist and anti-Semitic.
At a special Pouce Coupe council meeting on March 1, members of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, which represents six First Nations in northeastern B.C., read a letter via video that will be sent to the village’s chief administrative officer – denouncing Michetti’s actions and comments and demanding her immediate resignation.
“Ms. Michetti’s posts on social media reflect a deeply engrained racism against Indigenous people,” the letter states.
“There is no place for such racist, inappropriate and hateful conduct in British Columbia.”
Pouce Coupe council asked Michetti to resign and voted unanimously to remove her from all committee and board duties at a Feb. 20 special emergency meeting, after screenshots surfaced of a controversial Facebook post from the mayor.
It read: “Don’t want Pipeline’s? They want to protect our land. Yeah ok”, and included photos of homes with garbage-strewn lawns.
Critics claimed it was a racist reference to Indigenous pipeline opponents.
Michetti apologized for the post and admitted it was a mistake – but refused to resign.
At an explosive council meeting on Feb. 22, Pouce Coupe Coun. Ken Drover asked Michetti to explain another comment she made comparing gun owners to Holocaust victims. The mayor claimed the post was taken out of context – but later apologized in a statement posted to the village’s Facebook page on Feb. 28.
Drover submitted his resignation to the village two days later.
Treaty 8 Tribal Association members said Michetti’s ongoing conduct since her election in 2016 doesn’t reflect any of their core value or principles – and they claim her commitment to undergo cultural sensitivity training is “merely window dressing.”
Saulteau First Nations Coun. Ken Cameron said Michetti’s statements add fuel to more racism.
“There is only one answer coming from us and that is for you to respectfully step down,” Cameron told Pouce Coupe council on March 1.
Your posts have hurt many in the past few weeks,” added Chief Trevor Makadahay of the Doig River First Nation.
“It’s very disheartening that we get to realize that racism still lives.”
Pouce Coupe Coun. Marlene Hebert blasted the mayor for the embarrassment she’s caused their village of fewer than 800 residents.
“You threw us all out here,” Hebert said.
“We’re on the news in Germany! Now, how’s that!”
Michetti said she was so sorry the post went viral and again insisted that she never intended it to be racist.
Pouce Coupe Coun. Barb Smith told the Indigenous leaders that she is so sorry and apologetic for their community, which has made this so terrible.
“We just don’t support the thoughts and what’s coming from our mayor,” said an emotional Smith.
Michetti then asked Saulteau First Nations Chief Justin Napoleon if he knew of any courses she could take.
“How I am to learn since everybody is saying that I’m racist?” she inquired.
“Can I come up and learn your culture and find out how you guys actually do it?” Michetti proposed.
Prophet River First Nation Coun. Jacqueline Reno said the mayor should have thought about that before she starting posting things on social media.
“Now is a little too late to want to learn about First Nations people,” explained Reno.
“You should have done that years ago, right from when you were a child.”
The Treaty 8 members suggested it would be best if the mayor visited their communities after she steps down.
“I’m sorry, I won’t be stepping down because you guys can learn to meet me too,” Michetti responded.
You guys can learn to get to know me.”
“All I heard so far is blame, blame, blame,” Halfway River First Nation Coun. Linda Brady said.
“You are blaming everyone except yourself – and you need to look in the mirror.”
Michetti claimed she is taking full responsibility.
“That’s why I reached out to you guys to have a meeting one on one,” the Pouce Coupe mayor said.
“Do a delegation to see how you guys felt, and how I could move forward with you guys and continue on serving my community.”
After a few moments of silence, the Treaty 8 Tribal Association ended its video call and the mayor addressed her council.
“Well, I’m not resigning so…I have projects to do, I have things to do,” Michetti vowed before adjourning the special meeting.
The village of Pouce Coupe’s next regular council meeting is March 3.