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- Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

On Monday night, an important anti-racism motion was raised at Owen Sound City Council.  Watching alone in the "media room" at city hall, on delay via Rogers television, I could not see all the faces but I could feel the emotion in the council chamber.

I have transcribed what was said, verbatim,  by the three councillors who spoke to the motion, and a comment by the City Manager.  Councillor Merton's preamble and motion is published here.  The video of this discussion (where you can see the faces and hear the tone of those who are speaking) begins at 2:07:15 of the Rogers program. (It is also on the City's YouTube channel, but I found the sound was cutting in and out.) The other five members of council, including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, voted in favour of the motion, but did not speak to it.

Scott Greig: (On his concern that the usual notice of motion was waived) “There's a reason we get notice of motion and that's because it allows council to have a fulsome opportunity to review the motions that we are going to consider.”

Scott Greig: (to the motion)

“It sounds like there is a considerable amount of workload that you're asking staff to engage in with this endeavour.

My first question is: Where's the body of evidence that there's a problem? Because before one fella in Minneapolis, it was not an issue. I'm reading a book right now “How to Make America Healthy Again . It's written by a radiologist at Memorial Hospital in New York City, Nicole Saphier is her name; she's speaking from a doctor's perspective of, they don't have enough resources to be spending time with patients and they're constantly being asked to take whatever the newest political correct initiative is on their own time, detracting from their ability to provide health care, just to check a box off.

And I've seen it in minor hockey. Because one fella did awful things with kids, and then everybody, all the coaches, are asked to go through programs and so forth.

But, like, do you have evidence? that there is an issue here in Owen Sound? Because if it's just behavioural programming we're being asked for, that's not something I would support.

If there is evidence that was put in front of us, more so than one or two people complaining, because one or two people – there is complainers out there whether they like it or not – and one person that was a problem here locally, he wasn't a local – I think he graffitied the synagogue and it turned out he was not a local resident. So then to broad stroke the local community as being racist? I'm not sure I'm willing to do that."

Travis Dodd:  "I'm sorry. I have to say something. It doesn't matter if there is proof or not. You do know that there is racism in our society. I don't know that putting Councillor Merton on the spot to prove evidence at this time that there's racism in the City is appropriate."

Brock Hamley: "Could I have a recorded vote Your Worship?"

John Tamming: "Councillor Merton, obviously I support your motion, but I almost would like it adjourned to allow for some discussions with, perhaps, the City Manager so some specifics could come out of it, and I'm not faulting it, it just seems a little general. And I'll just give you an example. I asked our new City Manager, and I think I'm quoting him right, if we had a diversity strategy of any kind that I think some other Ontario municipalities – some – have. And I believe I'm right in – there doesn't seem to be any such written strategy. And where this comes from, for me - I'll just be very direct. My stepson has a racialized friend and I've had many discussions with him; he grew up in Owen Sound and it wasn't always easy. And I remember being at a meeting, a Strategic Plan meeting [editor's note: It was an Official Plan meeting – Strategic Plan meetings have not yet begun] in the ..room downstairs, and we had all the leaders, all the managers, and all the citizens that wanted to be there from Owen Sound and there wasn't a single racialized person in the room. So we have no racialized political leaders in this town, and we appear to have no racialized managers.

I think it's an issue. And I think it's an issue if Owen Sound ever wants to break out of the “Leave It to Beaver” culture that we have here, a culture that we're all bathed in, and we might not see the differences that exist and the different treatments that exist. We might not be alive to it, but there might be something - best practices from other municipalities and so forth - that our City Manager could alert us to, and say “you know what – this town had an affirmative action plan (I'm not saying I'm in favour, I'm just saying it's one of the tools that municipalities have used) to address the very issues that Councillor Merton is so justifiably raising. I mean, I'll vote in favour of the motion if it's not going to be adjourned, but I'd sure like to see some meat put on that bone over the next few months so we can come back with something a little more hefty. Those are my comments and I'll stop at that."

City Manager, Tim Simmonds: "Through you Your Worship to Councillor Tamming. You are correct that there is not a formalized diversity strategy that the City has at this time. However, I'd like to say, and I think you touched on it in your remarks, with the Strategic Plan. I think there is opportunity – the Strategic Plan is coming to its end right now and staff are planning on bringing the report back before the end of this year on the actions and where they are with that and also within that report to revitalize a Strategic Plan going forward. So, again there is a lot of good now within the plan now with the four pillars. I think diversity can be worked into that conversation with no work at all – it's there. You talk about it with society and culture already within the current plan. We can build off of that in a refresh of the Strategic Plan, so I think that would be the appropriate place to bring it forward."


 

 

 

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