04/03/2013 08:42 EDT | Updated 06/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Nanaimo Leaders Unite Against Racist Letter's Underpinnings

Community leaders in Nanaimo hope to turn a bad news story into something positive with the creation of a working group to combat racism.

Fifty leaders met at Vancouver Island University today to discuss the fallout from a racist letter to the editor printed in the Nanaimo Daily News last week.

Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Doug White says the creation of the committee is a first step toward reconciliation.

"There is an important discussion in our society that must unfold — to commit that we will engage in a long series of discussions over the course of a year of seeking to build understanding and knowledge to eradicate the foundations of racism, which are ignorance and lack of understanding," said White.

Meanwhile, several advertisers including Thrifty Foods and Vancouver Island University have pulled their ads from the Daily News in response to the letter.

The letter entitled "Educate First Nations to be modern citizens" questioned the accomplishments of the First Nations communities and depicted them as chronic underachievers.

The newspaper has since taken down the letter from its website, saying it should not have been published, but defended the author's right to free speech.

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