Bampton Regional Councillor John Sprovieri recently came under fire for what some call racist remarks and others call perfectly acceptable for an elected official.

Here’s how the whole thing went down:

A disgruntled constituent sent a lengthy email to Councillor Sprovrieri titled “Why are white people still planning Brampton’s future?” in which the constituent expressed concern over the disproportionate amount of white people (in comparison to the city’s demographics) working at the city in leadership positions.


There were a number of emails back and forth between Sprovieri and the constituent. The email under fire is as follows:Councillor Sprovieri went on to try to clarify that he actually meant the values found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms passed in 1982–but made a point to remind us that all of those people were white.

Even after headlines and public backlash, Sprovieri has refuses to back down or offer an apology. Given that so many seem to agree with him, perhaps he feels justified.

But what are “values of white people” anyway? Let’s set aside the inherent offensiveness of the councillor’s statement and look at the facts.

The Charter of Rights & Freedoms, which Sprovieri claims includes values enacted by “white people”, came from its predecessor the Bill of Rights, which was modeled after the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As you can imagine, United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights took cues and inspiration from its members at the time which included countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Siam, China, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iran, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia — all countries considered non-white.

There’s no arguing that the British and the French enacted these values in Canada, but they can’t be given sole credit for the values themselves–values this councillor seems to think exclusively belong to “white people”.

White people do not have a patent to or ownership of values of peace and democracy. To imply this, to entertain this train of thought and then publicly voice it, is divisive. It polarizes people and encourages racism to bubble to the surface. Indeed, if you look at the conversations on many Brampton-related online forums in the past couple of weeks, you’ll see it.

Most Bramptonians value the diversity that exists here, and many of us gladly celebrate it. Unfortunately there will always be those who despise the change that has taken place, who want Brampton to go back to the way it was in 1982. At that time Brampton was a city of  only 140,000 people. It was also basically a sea of white. Most of us have heard the conversations people have about the changes and how things “aren’t the same”, and about how it “used to be better”.

The people that feel this way have officially been validated by Sprovieri and have been given an opening to perpetuate these unsavoury ideas.

This worldview belongs in 1982, not in 2017. It’s time to start electing people who understand why, in 2017, in the era of Trump and Bannon and Tomi Lahren, in one of the most diverse cities in Canada, this type of thinking does not have a place. Or–and this may be a crazy thought–this type of thinking might be considered offensive and unjustifiable.

Despite his many years of service, this is the legacy that this councillor will leave behind, one of divisiveness and some might say, racism. That’s a true shame. Let’s hope it isn’t a legacy that emboldens further racism in Brampton.

2018’s election will tell whether the public thinks Sprovieri’s comments went too far.


Written with notes from Kevin Montgomery.

 

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