Community members are raising concerns over a City of Parksville councillor’s “unacceptable” Facebook comment which appears to mock the recognition of Indigenous plants.
An account belonging to Councillor Adam Fras made the remark on May 17 in response to a CHEK News story about a local Indigenous plant. The story featured the lək̓ʷəŋən name for the plant that most English speakers know as camas.
In the article, a Songhees expert shares cultural knowledge about the nutritional benefits and history of kwetlal, as it is known in lək̓ʷəŋən. kwetlal blooms with purple flowers and has been farmed and harvested by Songhees people for thousands of years.
In the comment section under the Facebook post, one reader wrote: “Thank you, I’m looking forward to learning the Indigenous names for plants and trees. After all, these are Indigenous plants and trees.”
In response to this comment, Fras replied: “Indigenous plants and trees? They invented them or what?”
The comment upset Jessica Linford, who was scrolling through Facebook when she happened upon the story and his reply.
“For me, I wouldn’t want an elected official saying anything that could be construed as dismissive of a community that they might represent,” she told IndigiNews.
IndigiNews reached out by email and phone to Fras to ask him about the comment and about his response to community concerns but did not receive a response.
Linford brought the comment to the attention of her friend Cindy Robinson, a local resident and member of the Kitasoo / Xai’xais First Nation.
Robinson said that the comment was especially upsetting because recognizing Indigenous knowledge has been highlighted as a priority in response to efforts such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“And those remarks are very harsh and unacceptable for someone in his type of leadership role,” she said, adding that all of these incidents build up to break trust.
“One little incident such as that it just kind of sets us back and you know, makes me kind of resistant to to want to proceed with helping or initiating ways of doing things together.”
Linford, a non-Indigenous woman, was upset to see laughing icons on the post, so went to look at the comments. That’s where she saw that Fras had responded with a laughing emoji to the reader comment thanking CHEK News for the article. Linford recognized his name and confirmed that he is on Parksville city council.
Other members of the public who saw Fras’s comment also replied to it, with one remarking: “scary he is on council in PV.”
Councillor Fras’s comment has since been deleted, although the responses are still visible.
According to the provincial government website on the conduct of locally elected officials, “Responsible conduct is grounded in elected officials conducting themselves according to principles such as integrity, accountability, respect, and leadership and collaboration in a way that furthers a local government’s ability to provide good governance to their community.”
When contacted by IndigiNews, Parksville Mayor Doug O’Brien said, “I believe that the person that should be commenting on this posting would be Adam Fras. In all honesty, I do not follow Facebook, nor comment on posts that are brought to my attention.”
Fras is a second-term elected member of the Parksville city council and the city liaison to the Parksville and District Historical Society. According to their website, the objectives of the society are to gather and preserve information of educational, historical and cultural value associated with the area.
Fras began his second term as a Parksville city councillor in October of last year. In the post on Facebook announcing his decision to run again for a seat on city council, he wrote, “After years of learning the role and processes involved, I am ready to lean into my experience with the genuine, kind, and commited nature I am known for.”
For Linford, that kindness was not on display in his comment. “It feels, minimally, very inappropriate to react that way publicly.”
As for Robinson, she says Fras’s comment conflicts with his responsibilities as a city councillor. “You think about who he is and, I mean, it’s just unacceptable.”