Siloam Mission commits to working with Indigenous community as CEO, chair resign

Siloam Mission has parted ways with its CEO and board chair following strong criticism about the organization’s relationship to Winnipeg’s Indigenous community.

Siloam announced the resignations of Jim Bell and Riley Coulter Thursday, as well as a new commitment to a comprehensive Indigenous relations strategy — headed up by an external consultant — in light of the controversy.

Bell, appointed CEO in 2017, was targeted by a social media group calling itself ‘Not My Siloam’ late last year, with a focus on Siloam — a Christian organization — and its lack of cultural and spiritual sensitivity to Indigenous people who use its services.

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Newly-elected board chair Garth Manness said Siloam acknowledges its mistakes and, following consultation with community leaders, wants to work toward reconciliation.

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“In light of recent criticism, we asked ourselves as a board, ‘how can we actively do better in serving our patrons, half of whom are Indigenous,’” said Manness.

“Today, as we commit to walking a collaborative path toward reconciliation and healing, we acknowledge our mistakes and thank so many for helping us learn and grow as individuals and as an organization.”

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Outgoing board chair Riley Coulter, who is from Calgary, said it was time to hand the reins to someone with a strong local connection to Winnipeg.

“Our board felt the time was right to transition the chair to a Winnipegger with deep roots in the community,” said Coulter.

“I have immense respect for Garth Manness and believe he will capably build on our Christian foundation while developing strong relationships with the Indigenous community.”

Siloam’s new strategy will include a formal reconciliation statement, the creation of an Indigenous Advisory Council, establishing an accountability process, exploring diversification of its board, and more.

The board of directors, helmed by Manness, will take over management operations until an interim replacement for Bell is found.

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“The success of Siloam, over the long-term, will be based on our ability to love, honour and listen to patrons, staff, key stakeholders and the broad community in a spirit of reconciliation,” said Manness.

“We must take action and that is what we are committed to doing as part of this serious effort.”

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