Editorial – Conversation, then action

An important conversation dealing with racism and inclusion has been taking place this summer in our area. It’s a conversation that is long overdue.

This has stemmed from online comments made by North Dundas councillor Tyler Hoy in August where he called the activist group Black Lives Matters a “terrorist group”. Hoy’s fellow council members quickly condemned his comments and formally reprimanded him at a special council meeting on August 24th.

Hoy’s statement does fall under the right to free speech in Canada, but North Dundas council’s reprimand proves that having that right also means you are responsible for the words you say. Unfortunately Hoy has not apologized for his statement about Black Lives Matters. Even more unfortunate is that there are some who agree with him. His comments have exposed that in this area, there is a bigger conversation needed to address issues of racism and discrimination.

Turning a negative into a positive, Hoy’s comments have prompted action to improve the situation. Chris Clapp, the person who initially called out Hoy for his statement, led a meeting last week in Winchester to start that conversation. The outcome is that a group is forming to address issues of racism and discrimination in North and South Dundas. There hasn’t been a “Hoy incident” in South Dundas, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t racism and discrimination here. Some locals were upset only a few months ago when a Pride Flag was flown at the South Dundas Justice Building. That request, by the OPP in support of its LGBTQ officers, was not well received by everyone in this community.

This area is not alone in its issues. What happens here is a reflection of the broader conversation that is happening across Canada. That conversation includes addressing the full legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald and Residential Schools, which recently saw a statue toppled in Montreal and the growing call for defunding police services in response to investigations of discrimination by RCMP and other police officers in Canada.

These are all important conversations to have, but there must be another step after – action. Talking about addressing racism and discrimination must then be followed up by making changes to include vulnerable communities. If that means a statue needs to be removed because a group sees that statue as a symbol of cultural genocide or a flag is flown at a municipal building in support of a minority group, so be it. Inclusion means including everyone respectfully, and being responsible to work towards that goal.

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