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City apologizes to former B.C. councillor for the systemic racism that led to her resignation

At 25, Jessica McCallum-Miller was Terrace’s youngest and first ever Indigenous councilor. She resigned two years later. (Michelle Ghoussoub/CBC - image credit)
At 25, Jessica McCallum-Miller was Terrace’s youngest and first ever Indigenous councilor. She resigned two years later. (Michelle Ghoussoub/CBC - image credit)

A small city in B.C.'s northwest has apologized for the impacts of systemic racism on former city councillor Hlox-Majagalee, whose English name is Jessica McCallum-Miller.

She resigned from her position on Terrace city council in 2021, saying that racism and sexism were negatively affecting her ability to work for her constituents and jeopardizing her mental health and well-being.

A joint statement, signed by the City of Terrace, current mayor Sean Bujtas, and Hlox-Majagalee, acknowledges the harm to Hlox-Majagalee's "sense of dignity and equality as an Indigenous woman" but maintains that the City "never intended to do or say things that would have a negative impact" on her.

"She was impacted by systemic racism and by municipal processes and policies in a way that caused harm to her sense of dignity and equality as an Indigenous woman, which forced her to resign from City Council," the city said in its statement.

Hlox-Majagalee was elected in 2018, the city's youngest councillor at 25. After her resignation, she said that her young age, along with her Gitxsan, Nisga'a, and Tsimshian heritage, made her feel alone and isolated when raising issues relating to women and Indigenous peoples.

Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.
Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.

Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. (Maggie McPherson/CBC News)

"One of the unavoidable consequences of colonialism is that harm can be caused even when no person or institution intended to cause harm," reads the joint statement.

"Systemic racism can operate in colonial institutions without anyone being aware of it."

CBC News contacted Hlox-Majagalee for comment but was referred to her legal counsel, barbara findlay.

Findlay confirms that the human rights complaint filed by Hlox-Majagalee was concluded with a mediation agreement at the end of July.

The City of Terrace sits on unceded Tsimshian territories of the Kiselas and Kisumkalum peoples. Pictured from above in January 2023.
The City of Terrace sits on unceded Tsimshian territories of the Kiselas and Kisumkalum peoples. Pictured from above in January 2023.

The City of Terrace sits on unceded Tsimshian territories of the Kiselas and Kisumkalum peoples. Pictured from above in January 2023. (Maggie McPherson/CBC News)

"It has always been my clients' concern to create change in the processes and the operations of the City of Terrace, which sit on unceded territories of the Kitselas and Kisumkalum peoples and to improve relations," said findlay, who uses lowercase letters when spelling her name.

"The City has agreed to move forward on that path, and my client will be watching carefully to make sure relationships ... actually improve."

The joint statement reads, "The parties are committed to moving forward together in mutual respect and in the spirit of reconciliation."

In the same year as Hlox-Majagalee's resignation, MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq both stepped back from public office, citing dysfunctional political systems that are hostile to Indigenous peoples and women.

Hlox-Majagalee is now an artist in a number of mediums, including jewelry and metalwork, graphic design, and painting. Her website says she studied Fine Arts at the Freda Diesing School of North West Coast Art.