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Williams Lake mayor under fire for Facebook post about ‘other side of residential schools’

Council to respond after First Nation slams William Lake mayor’s post on residential schools
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars, left, and Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb officiated naming the Nekw7usem Bridge linking the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island together earlier this year in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

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.

Williams Lake council said Saturday (Oct. 30) it will respond to criticism of Mayor Walt Cobb’s recent Facebook post about residential schools.

Cobb is being criticized for sharing a post about the “other side of residential schools,” on his personal Facebook page.

The post, which the mayor shared late Friday morning Oct. 27, 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.”

Responding to the mayor’s post, Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars penned an open letter to Williams Lake city council late Friday asking for a formal response from the city as to its position on Cobb’s social media post by the end of Monday, Nov. 1.

“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,” the letter stated.

“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.”

Cobb told the Tribune Friday he was forwarded the post by someone else and decided to share it.

“I think we need to look at every side of everything,” he said.

While he had not seen the critical comments on Facebook about his post, Cobb said he would have a look.

The city sent out a news release Saturday, noting that remained committed to reconciliation and collaboration with its First Nations neighbours moving forward. It will formally response at its regular council meeting Tuesday night (Nov. 2).

This is not the first time Cobb and other city council members have drawn ire over the issue. In June 2020, they were criticised for comments about the positive aspects of residential schools during a regular council meeting.

Council later attended a sweat hosted in the First Nations community of Esk’etemc in June 2020 upon the invitation of elders who shared their experiences at residential school.

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Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

A desire to travel led me to a full-time photographer position at the Williams Lake Tribune in B.C.’s interior.
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