Maple Ridge Councillor Gordy Robson got himself into a disagreement with a supporter of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on the weekend.
On Friday afternoon Julena Breel, a clinical counsellor who works with First Nations youth in Prince Rupert, sent an email to mayor and council asking them to consider releasing a statement of solidarity with the hereditary chiefs in regards to their opposition of the Coastal GasLink project – a 670-kilometre pipeline from the province’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast.
She noted her hometown of Victoria issued a statement of support, and she included their statement in the email, so Maple Ridge’s mayor and council would have an idea of what has already been done.
Late Friday, Breel received a response from Robson that upset her.
“I am so sorry that you don’t accept the decisions of your elected councils,” Robson wrote. “My solidarity is in support of their decisions to help their people. I think you’re embarrassing your band members.”
Breel, who called herself an, “uninvited white settler” in her email to mayor and council, took exception to the last line.
“[This] makes it clear to me Mr. Robson did not take the time to read my message and rather chose to reply with a canned response targeted towards Indigenous peoples,” she told The News.
“This is bullying, intimidation, and misplaced racism.”
Robson said Saturday that the Coastal GasLink pipeline controversy is something council should not be getting involved in, especially since the issue is not happening in Maple Ridge.
But he clarified the remarks were his own and not those of council.
“It would just be me,” he said. “Nothing to do with council. It has never been before council, nor should it be before council.”
Regarding the last line of his electronic reply to Breel, Robson admitted he made a mistake but also noted his frustration with the situation he was asked to comment on.
“I guess I shouldn’t have said that,” he said. “But it does [annoy me] that they’ve been through so much, these bands, and they’ve had discourse through their own bands and it’s a shame that they can’t get together and form a democracy and come up with a unified position.”