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Quesnel mayor’s wife stirs outrage over residential school denialism

Mayor Ron Paull disassociates himself from book Pat Morton circulated

The mayor of Quesnel was forced to publicly denounce the actions of his wife, after actions in her private life reflected on the city’s public institutions.

Mayor Ron Paull confirmed at the Tuesday evening council meeting that his wife, Pat Morton, was passing out copies of a book titled Grave Error - How The Media Misled Us (And The Truth About Residential Schools). The book’s theme is that the negative effects of the residential school system have been overblown.

The Lhtako Dene Nation - on whose unceded lands the Quesnel community was built, and whose members were typically interned at the St. Joseph’s Indian (sic) Residential School west of Williams Lake - issued a letter to Quesnel city council demanding corrective actions be taken.

The letter was on the formal public agenda of the City of Quesnel’s public meeting on March 19.

The issue was first brought up for discussion by councillor Tony Goulet, who is also an elected School District 28 trustee, and of Indigenous ancestry. He fought emotions as he expressed how he came to know of the book being sent to the school district, on one hand, but then acquired a different copy in a more personal way, from the hand of Morton as a presentation to a client of her business. That client was his mother, “with my dad sitting right next to her, and as you know, my dad did go to residential school,” Goulet said.

While people are allowed to have their opinions, he said, the contents of this book was something different. He found out by forcing himself to read it cover to cover. His parents tried, but couldn’t get through the full collection of assertions.

“It was very disturbing. I was just appalled that this would be circulating within the community,” Goulet said. “It’s just very, very, very traumatizing; very, very, very disrespectful to an Indigenous community…And my dad, going to residential school, it brought up a lot of stuff, let me tell you….Those things (school-based atrocities) are real. They did actually happen.”

Councillor Scott Elliott spoke directly to Paull, once Goulet had explained his experience and the demands within the Lhtako Dene Nation’s letter that the City of Quesnel reaffirm its memorandum of understanding (MOU) and consent to residential school education from local elders and those living with the generational consequences.

“I need to know and the community needs to know: do you agree with what your wife has been doing?,” said Elliott.

“No,” replied Paull.

A brief silence ensued.

Paull took two actions of his own, during the meeting. He issued a statement that outlined examples of his personal support for Indigenous reconciliation, and he proposed a motion to co-appoint himself as a City of Quesnel official liaison for First Nations matters. Currently, that position is solely the portfolio of councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenberg.

“I would like to be a direct part of the discussion, and be at the table,” said Paull.

No mover or seconder raised their hand.

Council did motion to take part in a residential school education program meted out by the Lhtako Dene Nation, and they also voted to reaffirm the existing MOU between their two governments.

At the urging of city manager Byron Johnson, two other resolutions were also posed and passed unanimously: one to denounce the book and one to officially state the City of Quesnel’s formal acceptance of the findings of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission.

READ MORE: Lhtako Dene Nation calls out Quesnel councillor’s relative

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Confirming truth, pledging reconciliation in Quesnel