City of Terrace calls on ombudsperson to probe allegations of systemic racism

Racism allegations probed

The City of Terrace is reaching out to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson in the wake of Coun. Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation and allegations of systemic racism.

Councillors unanimously agreed to direct staff to review current policies and pursue an independent review by the ombudsperson’s office, which investigates complaints about public agencies in B.C.

“We unfortunately live in a society where systemic racism exists, accusations of systemic racism need to be taken very seriously. I think that having a conversation about systemic racism and the ways we can all improve and work towards diversity is important and timely,” said Coun. Sean Bujtas.

McCallum-Miller, the youngest and first Indigenous councillor in Terrace’s history, resigned on Feb. 22. She said in a Facebook post that she questioned whether truth and reconciliation was a priority for council.

“It is my personal belief that systemic and internalized racism as well as sexism had played a role in the inability of my colleagues to respect and understand my personal and diverse perspectives,” McCallum-Miller said in the post which was addressed to the City of Terrace.

In the post, McCallum-Miller said she attempted to have council partake in cultural awareness training twice, and felt unheard and spoken over.

Mayor Carol Leclerc said council voted unanimously to partake in cultural education training from the Kitimaat Valley Education Society, on March 9, 2020, but that the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the session.

“Right after that, COVID came, we did not know how long COVID was going to be, we wanted to do this face-to-face so we thought we would just hold off on our cultural awareness training and it wasn’t able to take place,” she said.

In January, Coun. James Cordeiro proposed the training again and staff arranged for council to do so virtually on March 18.

“It wasn’t long after that councillor McCallum-Miller decided that she would like to put out to the rest of council that it be a Tsimshian cultural training session and there was some discussion that happened over email about the notice of motion that was going to come to our Monday meeting on Feb. 22,” Leclerc said.

“Unfortunately councillor McCallum-Miller brought in her letter of resignation on Feb. 22 and the notice of motion for the Tsimshian portion did not reach the council table at that time.”

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