Facebook comments spark SPCA threats for alleged racism

A series of comments on Facebook have escalated into threats and allegations of racism involving the SPCA in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA under fire for president's remark on Sheshatshiu situation

A series of comments on Facebook have escalated into threats and allegations of racism involving the SPCA in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The controversy began last Thursday when the local SPCA president commented on a photo of a puppy that had to be put down.

The original posting has since been deleted, but SPCA officials confirm president Lee Hill stated something to the effect of "I'd like to go down there and blow them all away."

SPCA spokesperson Bonnie Learning (pictured) says the board backs president Lee Hill 100 per cent. (CBC)

There was no mention of where the puppy was found, and Hill did apologize.

But in a subsequent post, SPCA spokesperson Bonnie Learning said the animal came from the Innu community of Sheshatshiu.

She said that led to a string of threatening calls and emails to the local SPCA.

Learning said the initial comment — while ill-advised — was aimed at the animal abuser, not the people of Sheshatshiu.

"None of us on our board have time for animal abusers," Learning said.

"We don't care who you are, what race you are. It was just a fact. I mean, it could've been from Hopedale, it could've been from North West River. It made no difference. That's where the puppy was picked up from."

Learning claims two truckloads of residents from Sheshatshiu confronted a lone worker at the local SPCA Monday afternoon.

She said police were called, but not before the group verbally abused the employee and left.

Learning said Hill's emotion got the best of her, and the board backs their president 100 per cent.

Facebook was the source of the original controversy, and Facebook is where protests against the SPCA have since found a home.

A new group — titled "Shame on SPCA negative comments on Innu people" — was created on Monday, and had more than 550 members as of early Tuesday afternoon.

"It's depressing and despicable that racism is flourishing in our own communities," Delilah Terriak posted on that page. "Animal abuse isn't an issue that is concentrated in little communities like Sheshiashiu, it's everywhere."

Formal apology

Meanwhile, the grand chief of the Innu Nation is demanding a formal apology from Hill.

Chief Joseph Riche says the Innu people have put up with similar disparaging remarks for far too long.

"It's scary how this person can be president within an association," Riche said. "At one point we care for the dogs and we're going after the animal abuser. At the same time, well let's just blow one group of people away and we'll solve the whole issue."

Online apologies aren’t enough, he said.

Riche wants Hill to come to Sheshatshiu and apologize in person, or at least on public radio.