Bracebridge OPP 'surprised' by Muskoka Lakes Mayor vandalism interview; OPP has no reports

Photo: Global News Broadcast. Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding and Darnelda Siegers of Sechelt, B.C. join Mercedes Stephenson to talk about about their concerns regarding cottage owners amid the pandemic. This was a different interview from the one Harding gave on June 15.

Agatha Farmer

Last week a Toronto media outlet published an interview in which Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding outlined the crimes committed by the region's local residents against US citizens as well as owners of high end luxury vehicles some with Oakville license plates.

The media outlet which ran the story noted at the bottom of their article that they had contacted the Bracebridge OPP for comment on the alleged attacks. Following the original date of publish it has not been updated. Muskoka Post also reached out to the OPP for our above linked editorial, but before sharing the information provided by the police here is a quick timeline of events on the day of Harding's interview.

Prior to the publication of the mayors interview on Monday June 15 Harding attended a district of Muskoka council meeting during which the subject of systemic racism was discussed. The topic was brought up as a resolution by Heidi Lorenz to support visible minorities in Muskoka following the murder of George Floyd. As the last speaker on the topic of systemic racism Harding interjects the following;

"I support this 100% I ALSO just want to make sure that on the table we consider; we consider often times traditional racism by skin colour or ethnicity. It's far greater than that and we have seen that in the past 3 months in particular with Covid. I know of some personal friends with American license plates but Canadian citizens who have been accosted here in our community in the last week, where the police had to get involved. That's another form of racism that I think we need to address and I just want to make sure that we do encapsulate all of that as we are inclusive ... I just couldn't let it go without being said."

The same day he informs a news outlet that the topic of local vigilantism toward seasonal residents with US license plates was discussed at a council meeting. Except that it wasn't. Systemic Racism was. Those are not the same thing. At the same meeting Harding claimed to fellow councillors that his personal American/Canadian friends were "accosted" and had the police involved in their vandalism incident. Except that they didn't. Or at least not the Bracebridge OPP.

Today Samantha Bigley, communications person for the Bracebridge OPP, confirmed that no such incidents which Harding spoke of had ever been reported to that detachment.

"Bracebridge OPP has actually not received any calls for service relating to vandalism to property involving American license plates. We were a bit surprised to see Mayor Hardings interview. Anyone who is the victim of property crime may report by calling our toll free number or may report it online."

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