WATCH: The Snuneymuxw First Nation Flag is no longer flying at Nanaimo City Hall. The First Nation asked to have it returned over how the city has been treating its city manager, who is First Nations. Kendall Hanson reports.
Members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation arrived at Nanaimo City Hall on Friday to take back their flag.
An empty flagpole now a symbol of their anger with a few members of Nanaimo City Council and Mayor Bill McKay.
A dispute that stems from allegations that the city manager is the victim of workplace violence.
“When this house denies a simple fact of reality that Tracy Samra experienced violence as the city manager we can no longer have our flag flying over this house,” said Snuneymuxw Councillor Doug White.
“It’s the toughest day had to do as chief of the nation is ask for something back that we gave in friendship,” said Snuneymuxw Chief John Wesley.
It was a much different mood two years ago when the Snuneymuxw First Nation flag took its place beside the city’s flag.
“We’re going down a path that we want to work together,” said Wesley on June 21, 2015, at the flag raising ceremony.
But that relationship started to fray following an incident in February when Coun. Wendy Pratt is captured on video appearing to knock a cell phone from the hands of city manager Tracy Samra, who is First Nations.
Pratt resigned not long after.
In a media interview after, the mayor said he’d not seen anything that’s suggested that Samra experienced violence in the workplace.
On Friday, McKay admitted the law could see it differently.
“It appears that the crown believes that the action of applying force on another person however minimal is considered to be an assault,” said McKay.
Nanaimo City Council has moved to address the situation.
A Nanaimo city councillor read a message, approved at an in camera meeting this week, to Samra.
“Council expresses regret to the deterioration and relationship and commits to working diligently to support you in your return to work and take steps to foster a positive environment,” read Coun. Bill Yoachim.
And there is also a vow that council will be on their best behaviour in the presence of city staff.
Samra is expected to return to work Saturday after being on leave since late July.
The mayor says he hopes to mend the relationship with the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
For now, an empty flagpole serves as a reminder of how much work needs to be done.