Murray Harbour Councillor Faces Calls to Resign Over Controversial Sign Denying Residential School Graves

Murray Harbour Councillor Faces Calls for Resignation Over Offensive Sign
P.E.I. Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry, Roderick “Junior” Gould, chief of Abegweit First Nation, Darlene Bernard, chief of Lennox Island First Nation, Sen. Brian Francis and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King, observe two minutes of silence in honour of the residential school victims during a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation service in Charlottetown, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. A First Nation chief and the mayor of a small P.E.I. community are calling for a village councillor’s resignation over a hateful anti-Indigenous sign posted on his property. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brian McInnis. bm

A controversial sign denying the existence of residential school graves has intensified calls for the resignation of Murray Harbour Coun. John Robertson.

Abegweit First Nation Chief Junior Gould and Mayor Terry White of Murray Harbour are leading the voices insisting Robertson immediately step down from the council. Photos of the sign, which was posted on Robertson’s property, revealed messages that read, “Truth: mass grave hoax” and “Reconciliation: Redeem Sir John A.’s integrity.”

“It’s very triggering when something is suggestive or makes a statement that is inaccurate,” Chief Junior Gould mentioned, having driven to Murray Harbour to witness the sign himself. “I think we all, as a society, have a due diligence and responsibility to each other to make sure, you know, if you’re saying stuff, make sure there’s some merit and truth to it.”

The contentious message was eventually removed on Saturday, coinciding with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Gould, a descendant of a residential school survivor, highlighted the irony of such a sign during a period dedicated to fostering understanding across Canada.

In the wake of confirming the Indigenous community’s long-held suspicions of unmarked graves in British Columbia, First Nations across Canada have identified evidence of more than 2,300 children in suspected unmarked graves near former residential schools and Indian hospitals, as per a report from the independent special interlocutor for missing children.

Murray Harbour Councillor Faces Calls to Resign Over Controversial Sign Denying Residential School Graves
Abegweit Chief Junior Gould drove to Murray Harbour to see the sign after hearing about it on the weekend. The words have since been removed. (Submitted by Junior Gould)

Regarding Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, Gould noted the well-documented history of his treatment of the Indigenous community. “Sir John A. Macdonald, and the legislative practices that were to assimilate or just to eradicate my people based on genocidal practices by the federal government, that’s been substantiated in court litigation and been backed up by the federal government,” he explained.

Mayor Terry White also expressed his deep concern, calling the sign “a stain on our community.” White added, “He stepped way over the line and it’s going to be dealt with. There’s going to be no more signs in the harbor.”

Anne Harnesk, the chief administrative officer of the village, highlighted the possible implications of Robertson’s actions. According to the community’s code of conduct for councilors, potential consequences could include a suspension, a fine of up to $500, or an official apology.

When reached for comment, Robertson did not provide a response. Meanwhile, municipal staff are set to benefit from an educational presentation on Indigenous history, offered by Chief Gould, at the Oct. 11 council meeting.