Former Terrace Councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller has filed a human rights complaint against the city, mayor and a council member, nearly a year after resigning from her position citing systemic racism.
McCallum-Miller and her lawyer Barbara Findlay filed the complaint on Jan. 24 with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal – a specialized court that handles cases concerning discrimination and harassment based on sex, race etc.
Speaking with Black Press Media about her complaint against Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc and Coun. James Cordeiro, McCallum-Miller said she had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life.
“It has taken me almost an entire year to weigh this decision,” she said, adding, “I’m still incredibly hurt by what took place.”
The complaint falls within the tribunal’s time frame requirements to file a grievance within a year of the incident.
In doing so, McCallum-Miller said she is hoping for a resolution through a process of mediation, where wrongdoings are recognized and that First Nations of northwest are respected moving forward.
McCallum-Miller was unable to provide a copy of the complaint at the time of publishing this article.
In a Jan. 31 Facebook post, McCallum-Miller uploaded a personal statement to clarify her action and said it was an attempt to seek justice and personal healing.
In the statement, she also called on local governments across the province to undertake localized Indigenous cultural awareness training to better work with local First Nations and commit to advocating the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In the same statement, she also listed the events that led to her resignation last year.
McCallum-Miller, who joined the City of Terrace as its youngest serving and first Indigenous councillor in 2018, said she witnessed “racial joking” and “harmful words ” shared by Cordeiro against Tsimshian peoples and the Kitsumkalum First Nation.
“This behaviour was not corrected by Mayor Carol Leclerc and therefore created a very toxic environment in the workplace. This behaviour was also witnessed by other members of council and no other member stated that this behaviour was inappropriate.”
McCallum-Miller also cited two other instances that led to her departure from the council, one of which stemmed from her call for a localized cultural awareness training for staff, and second from a February 2020 media interview she gave expressing her personal views about LNG Canada’s “man camps” affecting women’s safety in the area. Following this, she was asked by Cordeiro to issue a public apology for making a personal statement from the city’s council chambers.
The allegations of racism still remain uninvestigated after the Office of the Ombudperson denied the city’s request to probe into the matter.
Mayor Carol Leclerc was not aware of McCallum-Miller’s human rights complaint when Black Press Media reached out to her. Leclerc said they had not received any such notice.
When asked, Cordeiro also said he had not been notified of any formal complaints yet and declined to comment on the situation, if it were indeed now a legal issue.
However he did say that he had no interest in defending himself against McCallum-Miller’s actions and responded to the allegations of racism saying, “She is entitled to her opinion and feelings.”
“I hope that she’s able to work things out and I wish her success,” said Cordeiro.