The City of Terrace has officially apologized to former city councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller for what it calls “systemic racism” within “colonial institutions” in causing her to resign from her position in February 2021.
Municipal processes and policies “caused harm to her sense of dignity and equality as an Indigenous woman which forced her to resign from city council,” the city said in a statement this morning (Sept 11).
The city said it will now hold mandatory annual anti-discrimination training for its employees and council members based on its own policies and hold annual cultural training regarding the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum peoples.
“Among the many issues facing our common communities, the city intends to raise, discuss and consult with its Indigenous partners how to create time, space and opportunities in city council meetings, bylaws, policies and processes to better respect, hear and reflect information and concerns from Indigenous peoples, and in particular the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum First Nations,” the city added in saying it wished to hold regular sessions with the two First Nations.
Within the city statement, McCallum-Miller said she was “happy that the city is committed to ending systemic racism in municipal processes.”
The city did not provide specific details about events or practices leading to McCallum-Miller’s resignation and its apology.
Leading up to McCallum-Miller’s resignation, she and council disagreed over who should provide Indigenous cultural awareness training and when that training should take place.
In a Facebook post announcing her resignation, McCallum-Miller said it was her “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.”
A year after her resignation, in 2022, McCallum-Miller filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, citing the city, then-mayor Carol Leclerc and city councillor James Cordeiro.
Leclerc, said McCallum-Miller, failed to admonish Cordeiro for statements she described as “racial joking” and “harmful words.”
Today’s statement by the city did not indicate if the apology served to end the complaint.
But in making the complaint, McCallum-Miller said she hoped for a resolution through mediation.