Source: Lindsay Shepherd

A 74-year old tax expert with a passion for civic involvement, community affairs, and empowering local youth has bewilderingly become the most notorious woman in the small city of Quesnel, B.C.

“I’m really afraid to go out right now,” Pat Morton said in an exclusive interview with True North.

“When I come to work in the morning, I used to park out back, and now I park right beside the door so I can get right in. At home at night, I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my safety.”

Morton has been facing fervour online and in the Quesnel city council chambers for the apparently heinous act of recommending a bestselling book.

Morton, the wife of Quesnel mayor Ron Paull and herself a former city councillor, was surfing Amazon for books to read and came across Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (and the Truth about Residential Schools).

Morton ordered Grave Error, a collection of essays debunking the mainstream narrative that the Indian residential schools of the 1870s to 1990s were institutions of genocide. (Grave Error, edited by C.P. Champion and Tom Flanagan, was published by True North). 

As author Tom Flanagan notes, “Grave Error certainly does not deny that the residential school experience was difficult for many native children, or that abuses and neglect occurred,” but it does contend that there is no evidence any students from these schools went missing or were buried in “unmarked graves.”

In fact, attendance at residential schools was almost entirely voluntary and students had better health outcomes than those living on reserves.

To gain a variety of perspectives, Morton also ordered Rez Rules: My Indictment of Canada’s and America’s Systemic Racism Against Indigenous Peoples, by Chief Clarence Louie.

Morton, who grew up on Vancouver Island – including at a logging camp north of Campbell River – has always been interested in the topic of Indigenous relations.

“I’ve always been interested because I talk to the kids and the people when they come into the office about how things are, and I get a little disturbed about how the things on the reserves are affecting the kids,” she said. 

“I hear about the kids that are mistreated. I hear that the young girls have no rights.”

In 1966, as a teenage girl, Morton was invited to and attended a school dance at the Port Alberni residential school, and knew that these schools held many activities, events, and sporting matches for the students. 

She read some of the essays in Grave Error, and being the civically-engaged citizen that she is, donated some copies to the local school district and passed along a copy to a fellow community member, Connie Goulet, whom she had known for over 30 years. Morton wanted Goulet’s thoughts on the book.

Connie is the mother of Tony Goulet, a city councillor who identifies as Métis. 

During a Mar. 19 council meeting, Tony Goulet appeared to be choking back tears as he claimed that it was “very, very, very traumatizing” and “very, very, very disrespectful to an Indigenous community” for Morton to have handed out the book to her acquaintances.

Council, including Morton’s husband, Mayor Ron Paull, condemned the book, which they admitted they hadn’t read. The Quesnel board of education also denounced the book.

At a subsequent Apr. 2 meeting, the chambers were full of protesters, many of them First Nations, who booed and hollered at Morton when she appeared to give a statement. Local media reported that hundreds of people came out to protest. 

The chiefs of the Lhtako and Nazko First Nations stated at the meeting they would no longer do business with the City of Quesnel with Paull at the helm.

Morton said during that meeting that she was “rattled.”

“I really don’t like being in the spotlight. I absolutely hate it. And I look at it now and say, this is terrible,” she told True North.

“I like being in the background – I’ll work and make things happen. But if I have to, I step forward.”

“You can come after me, but leave my family out of it”

Part of the fallout for Morton has been that her son Kevin Christieson’s tax firm, Qtax, lost a major contract doing tax returns for members of the Nazko band, which the firm has done for years.

“When this happened, the day after the (council) meeting, an accounting firm phoned and said they’re taking over the contract. They didn’t even phone Kevin, they didn’t say anything to him, they just decided to go elsewhere.”

Christieson defended his mother early on.

“She is one of the kindest, most giving people I know,” Christieson wrote of Morton in a statement on Qtax’s Facebook page on Mar. 22. 

“She loves all people from different backgrounds, and would never do anything to harm anyone. Everybody that actually knows my mother knows this to be true.”

While preparing tax forms, Morton really gets to know her clients.

“That’s why I love my job, is I get a chance to talk to everybody about anything. And I give them an opportunity. I had one Native girl, she actually ran for city council one time, and after the meeting, she came up and gave me a big hug and said ‘thank you’ because I was the reason that she had the guts to do it,” she recounted.

“I try really hard to make people feel better when they leave here, not just because I did their taxes and they got money back, but just to give them a boost in life. And I’ve hired many, many Native people to work for me.”

Morton attests that her marriage is stronger than ever, despite Paull publicly disagreeing with her actions.

According to Morton, because of the Quesnel controversy, Paull felt pressured to resign from his board position with the New Pathways to Gold Society, a heritage tourism organization.

“I love Pat dearly and respect her and everyone’s right to freedom of speech, to freedom of association… Even through adversity, Pat and I are best friends,” Paull wrote in a Mar. 25 resignation letter, supplied to True North.

“I have decided to resign from the board so as to not be seen in any way as a distraction from the integrity and continuing good work of the (New Pathways to Gold) society,” Paull wrote.

Morton said her husband is a “peace-loving guy” who lets the Quesnel councillors make up their own minds about city matters.

When Morton herself appeared in the chambers on Apr. 2 to offer her point of view, Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg told Morton she had “no respect” for her husband as mayor.

“Why didn’t she come to me and say something?” Morton added, speaking of Roodenburg, who is the council’s indigenous liaison.

“I mean, she’s supposed to be helping the bond, she’s not supposed to be inflaming it. And I think that’s exactly what she did.”

Morton said Roodenburg and Elliott were cozier with the previous mayor.

“What they’re doing to my husband right now is so devastating,” she said.

“He doesn’t blame me for this. I feel really bad that this is happening. And he can see that. It really wasn’t my doing, giving the book to Connie. This is about the politicians getting involved and making hay out of it.”


  • Lindsay Shepherd

    Lindsay holds an M.A. in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has been published in The Post Millennial, Maclean’s, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, and Quillette.