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A Toronto news media outlet published a story yesterday regarding US visitors being accosted in cottage country. Muskoka Lakes mayor Phil Harding in an interview said Americans "are being targeted and verbally assaulted by vigilantes who don't want them in their region during the COVID-19 pandemic." Apparently the mayor says he has heard stories in which local citizens have "accosted people with American license plates" and American cars have been keyed.
I have sent an email to the Bracebridge OPP asking about such reports, I'm waiting to hear back on any official complaints which I will update this editorial with should any come to public light.
In the same interview Harding told the media outlet that the issue was discussed at a council meeting on Monday and "he is now urging permanent residents to promote inclusiveness."
Was it the same inclusiveness he promoted when he himself pinned locals vs cottagers in a now widely public conversation he had with a Muskoka constituent when he asked her who she thinks pays for local hospitals; well cottagers of course according to the mayor and let's not forget that "locals don't own Muskoka" as per Harding. Have a read Here.
It seems to have been the same inclusiveness he offered to minorities in the council meeting he spoke about during his interview which actually pertained to addressing systemic racism within Muskoka as brought up by Councillor Heidi Lorenz.
The actual issue being discussed at the meeting, which Harding told a media outlet was regarding local vandals and seasonal residents, was regarding a motion to address systemic racism in the region. Harding used the discussion to once again interject his dividing agenda. Here is a sample of the conversation between councillors on Monday afternoon during this topic at the district council meeting.
Coun. Lorenz brings up the fact that systemic racism exists within Canada and why she brought forth a resolution to send a clear message to "black, brown, indigenous and all marginalized people to say that we are here and we support you."
Lorenz: "To support the idea that racism doesn't exist across Canada and Muskoka is to be complicit. It's no longer enough to be racist but we must encourage a culture of zero tolerance to even the subtle racist comments and actions. We must be anti-racist."
Several councillors followed her statement and offered support for the resolution, some also advised that establishing a community based advisory group made up of minority members to aid this vanilla council in addressing systemic racism within our region would also help. Councillor Don Smith suggested that police and communities also work together via a council or community body.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith: "We can sit here and pat ourselves on the back for passing a motion but we are the least equipped people to act on that motion. So we really do need to bring those that feel they have been marginalized or effected negatively by systemic racism."
As the last speaker on the resolution Harding hijacks the systemic racism discussion and offers his white privilege viewpoint.
"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."
Another notion Harding couldn't let go and had to inform the interviewing media outlet was that "people are thinking of what vehicle they take into Foodland and LCBO. For example, an Oakville BMW licence plate is not a good thing." He also added "that other luxury vehicles have been targeted simply because they are expensive." Is that a fact? Are all these incidents only related and perpetrated by locals? Who has reports for these alleged crimes which are so hideous that we must address them with systemic racism reform?
Well yes Karen, oops I mean Phil yes you could have let it go but then again you have just proven that white privilege is alive and well in Muskoka. I will also add the fact that Muskoka District Chair John Klinck following Harding's statement responds with; "Good point, thank you councillor" and silence falls, no one rebuttals Harding's ridiculous comment which incidentally also speaks volumes about systemic racism.