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B.C. mayor stripped of budget, barred from committees over Indigenous residential schools book

Ron Paull, mayor of Quesnel, B.C., was censured by city council on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (City of Quesnel) Ron Paull, mayor of Quesnel, B.C., was censured by city council on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (City of Quesnel)
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A British Columbia mayor has been censured by city council – stripping him of his travel and lobbying budgets and removing him from city committees – for allegedly distributing a book that questions the history of Indigenous residential schools in Canada.

The Lhtako Dene First Nation brought the issue to the Quesnel city council in March after learning that Mayor Ron Paull's wife had circulated copies of the book Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth About Residential Schools) in the community, including to the local school board.

According to a staff report, Paull was informed by the city's chief administrative officer that the Lhtako Dene leadership were upset by the revelation before the mayor himself brought a copy of the book to a Cariboo Regional District meeting the following month.

The mayor denied staff claims that he was attempting to distribute the book at the April 2 meeting, but admitted to showing it to two colleagues after the meeting ended.

"This is all based on a misunderstanding," Paull told council ahead of the censure vote Tuesday, saying he showed the copy to his colleagues to ask what the regional library would do with such a book. "I have not read the book," the mayor added.

In April, the Lhatko Dene announced they were stepping away from any further co-operation with the mayor and council and prohibited the mayor from entering Lhtako Dene territory unless expressly invited.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued its own statement in solidarity with the Lhtako Dene, saying the book "essentially questions the very existence of residential schools and their well-documented harms against Indigenous peoples."

Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth About Residential Schools) questions the findings of 215 potential unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School. Quesnel Mayor Ron Paull's wife handed out several copies in the community, prompting calls for the mayor's resignation.

Quesnel council voted unanimously to sanction the mayor, removing his travel and lobbying budgets and barring him from city committees and organizations such as the Cariboo Regional District and the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Paull recused himself from voting on the motion, which also demands a "sincere" apology from the mayor. A separate motion to revisit the sanctions in 90 days was also approved unanimously.

On Wednesday, the Cariboo Regional District said it would welcome the city's new representative to the board once they are chosen.

"Our board as a whole remains committed to the principles of reconciliation and strengthening our relationships with all the Indigenous governments in the Cariboo and Chilcotin," the regional district said in a statement.

The mayor's office told CTV News it was declining all interview requests and would not comment on the censure Thursday.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Becca Clarkson

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