Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley, left, holds the flag that used to fly atop Nanaimo City Hall. Nanaimo Coun. Bill Yoachim, middle, and Snuneymuxw councillor Douglas White III also spoke Friday in front of the city hall steps. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

VIDEO: Snuneymuxw council takes back flag from Nanaimo City Hall

Members of Snuneymuxw went to city hall Friday to ask for the flag back, and were presented with it

The Snuneymuxw flag no longer flies above Nanaimo City Hall.

Members of Snuneymuxw government went to city hall Friday to ask for the flag back, and were presented with it.

“I’m not happy as chief to be here asking for something we gave to the city in good faith and friendship and partnership,” said Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley.

Snuneymuxw council unanimously resolved Aug. 29 to ask that the flag be returned. The First Nation is asking Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay to rescind a statement relating to “violence experienced by Tracy Samra in the attack against her by city councillor Wendy Pratt,” and is asking mayor and council to denounce violence against First Nations women.

Coun. Bill Yoachim, acting mayor, handed over the flag to Wesley following speeches in front of city hall steps.

“From the bottom of my heart and to the citizens of Nanaimo, we look forward to somehow obtaining that trust [in] our council again…” Yoachim said. “I just hope my Snuneymuxw relations and leadership realize it hasn’t been all of our council, all of the wishes of this council and the city to move this direction, but unfortunately scenarios are where they are and with time, hopefully we’ll earn your trust.”

Snuneymuxw councillor Douglas White III said the First Nation is showing support not only for Samra – who is his wife’s cousin – but for every indigenous woman in Canada.

“This kind of behaviour is not acceptable in this country and this kind of behaviour is not acceptable in Snuneymuxw territory…” White said. “As a country we must grapple with hard issues. We must show real leadership. We can’t pretend that things don’t exist that exist. We can’t pretend that things aren’t wrong when they’re wrong.”

White said behaviour he’s seen at Nanaimo city hall “brings dishonour to our relationship and to the flag.”

McKay was invited to speak and made a brief statement, saying, “We’ll continue our work at city council to right the wrongs.”

The mayor told reporters afterward that he was disappointed to see the Snuneymuxw flag come down.

“We put that flag up in friendship between Snuneymuxw and the city that we govern the territory together, and it’s disappointing that it’s come down today, but we’ll rebuild the relationship one step at a time, with baby steps.”

White said he’s surprised the mayor didn’t have more to say in front of city hall Friday.

“It’s troubling. The major part of the purpose of this work is to denounce, but also to invite the creation of a different pattern, a different reality,” White said.

editor@nanaimobulletin.com