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Luke Strimbold is the youngest mayor in B.C. history, and second-youngest ever elected in Canada. (Village of Burns Lake) Indigenous leaders in the Burns Lake, B.C., area say they’re shocked by sex-related allegations against the town’s former mayor — but they’re also calling for healing for both the victims and the alleged perpetrator.

Officials say Luke Strimbold, 27, was well-respected among local First Nations in the small northern community of roughly 2,000, and was even briefly employed by one nation at a children’s camp and a fisheries program before he was elected mayor.

"He worked well with us, he listened to us. And in fact a lot of our elders had a lot of respect for him," said former Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen-Toews.

"It’s sent shock waves throughout the Burns Lake community and all of the surrounding areas."

Strimbold was arrested on Feb. 3 and has been charged with 24 counts of sex-related offences, including offences related to people under the age of 16.

The identities of the alleged victims are protected under a publication ban. The alleged incidents occurred between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2017. ‘We will pursue healing for everyone’

Officials said there had been rumours about Strimbold for years, but they were also quick to point out that the allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Ogen-Toews said Strimbold came from a well-respected family in the area and worked closely with many of the First Nations in the area.

"During my time as the chief of my nation I considered Luke a good friend," she said. "It’s given me a lot of mixed emotions." Luke Strimbold, former mayor of Burns Lake, B.C., stands with former B.C. premier Christy Clark in this photo taken in February 2013 at a ceremony honouring Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal winners. (Province of B.C./Flickr) But as much as Ogen-Toews emphasized that she does not condone the allegations, she and other leaders underscored the importance of healing for everyone — including Strimbold, if the allegations are proven to be true.

"It’s unfortunate news as we worked with Luke during his tenure as mayor," said a written statement from Ogen-Toews, Chief Dan George of the Burns Lake Band and Chief Rene Skin of the Skin Tyee Nation.

"It’s obvious he needs healing along with the alleged victims. We will pursue healing for everyone." ‘There’s a lot of anger in the community’

Wilfred Adam, Chief of the Lake Babine First Nation in Burns Lake, said the news came as a shock to him — despite the rumours he had also heard.

"Coming from a small community, it’s really huge," Adam said.

Adam said Strimbold had worked for the Lake Babine First Nation before he became mayor in 2011 — once for the fisheries program and one summer at a children’s rediscovery camp where local Indigenous youth go to learn about their cultural traditions. Adam also said he supported Strimbold during his re-election campaign as mayor in 2014.

"It really makes me angry that we put our trust in this guy," Adam said. "There’s a lot of anger in the community right now."

Strimbold was first elected mayor of the Village of Burns Lake in 2011 at the age of 21. He was the youngest mayor ever elected in B.C. history, and second-youngest in Canada.After successfully running for re-election in 2014 he stepped down suddenly in September 2016, citing a desire to focus on business and educational opportunities and spend time with family.Strimbold was listed as the membership chair on the B.C. Liberal website before news of the charges were made public. He was removed from the page shortly afterwards. With files from Angela […]

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