Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe is slamming an op-ed written by a local city councillor on Black History Month as “racist, irresponsible and unethical,” and is calling on her to retract the comments.
In the column penned by Coun. Lisa Robinson in the Oshawa/Durham Central newspaper on Feb. 6, she questions the need for Black History Month, says that it is racist to say she has white privilege, and suggests that people who criticize her for her comments have “limited intellect.” She also maintains that “Slavery is not a white and black issue.”
She nonetheless maintains in the column that “I am not prejudice nor discriminatory. I have friends off all nationalities and as an elected official. I treat everyone equal and without bias (sic).”
Robinson previously found herself in hot water after calling herself a “modern day slave” in a Facebook post criticizing a council decision to dock her 30 days pay over an unrelated matter investigated by the integrity commissioner.
Responding to the op-ed in a statement issued Tuesday, Ashe said the comments do not represent Pickering or its city council’s values.
“I believe that the recently published column is, in my view, racist, irresponsible, and unethical,” Ashe wrote. “We should not give it more attention than it deserves, except for the fact that it causes real harm. This does not represent the City and what we stand for.”
He said at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting, he urged Robinson to issue a public retraction and apologize for her comments. She has so far declined to do so. Ashe said he’s hopeful she will change her mind.
“In the interim, I offer a sincere apology to all members of the Black community,” he wrote.
The mayor said that to dismiss the celebration of Black History Month “is to erase the significant contributions of a people who, despite historical adversity, have left an indelible mark on the development, progress, and richness of our society.”
He said the views expressed by Robinson in the column do not reflect those of council, which remains “steadfast in our commitment to building a future where every resident, regardless of background or heritage, feels not just recognized, but genuinely valued and unequivocally included.”
Robinson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the mayor’s statement. However in a Facebook post, she said she would respond with a statement of her own.
“Tomorrow I will be putting out an Official Statement regarding the Mayors Statement and the way he has manipulated and misrepresented the truth,” she wrote. “Until then I will stand by my words that segregating people based on the colour of their skin, religion or sexual preferences does not support unity and equality for all. It fact, it only creates a breeding ground for racism to exist.”