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Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor remains defiant as Indigenous leaders demand her resignation

Click to play video: 'Another tense council meeting in Pouce Coupe, B.C.' Another tense council meeting in Pouce Coupe, B.C.
Pouce Coupe mayor Lorraine Michetti asks Treaty 8 Tribal Association members if they know of any courses she could take to learn their culture - as they demand her resignation at a March 1 council meeting – Mar 3, 2021
The mayor of the small B.C. village of Pouce Coupe southeast of Dawson Creek remains defiant as Indigenous leaders claim her “shocking and unacceptable behaviour” makes it impossible for them to work with her in her mayoral role moving forward.

Lorraine Michetti is under fire over social media posts that critics deemed racist and anti-Semitic.

Click to play video: 'Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor to seek counselling for anger management and social media use' Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor to seek counselling for anger management and social media use
Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor to seek counselling for anger management and social media use – Feb 28, 2021

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.

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“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.

A screen shot of a controversial Facebook post that led to calls for Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor Lorraine Michetti to resign. Facebook

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.

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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.

An undated photo of Pouce Coupe, B.C. councillor Ken Drover before he submitted his resignation on Feb. 24. Village of Pouce Coupe

Read more: B.C. municipal election 2018: Pouce Coupe results

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.”

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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.”

The village of Pouce Coupe southeast of Dawson Creek is home to under 800 residents. Village of Pouce Coupe

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!”

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Michetti said she was so sorry the post went viral and again insisted that she never intended it to be racist.

Click to play video: 'Racist acts against First Nations communities condemned by B.C.’s top doctor' Racist acts against First Nations communities condemned by B.C.’s top doctor
Racist acts against First Nations communities condemned by B.C.’s top doctor – Jan 14, 2021

Read more: B.C. mayor who compared gun owners to Holocaust victims to seek anger management counselling

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.

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“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.

The council chambers inside the Pouce Coupe village office has been the site of heated exchanges in recent weeks. Village of Pouce Coupe

“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.”

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“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.”

Pouce Coupe, B.C. mayor Lorraine Michetti. Village of Pouce Coupe
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ICBC employee let go after racist social media posts surface – Oct 3, 2020

Michetti claimed she is taking full responsibility.

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“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.

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