Posted on January 3, 2005

Politician’s Comments Criticized As Racist

Bruce Demara, Toronto Star, Jan. 2

Some Toronto councillors and a race relations expert say published comments by Scarborough Councillor Mike Del Grande that “white people” are moving out of his ward are divisive and unacceptable.

Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) says he was only reflecting on the “reality” of demographic changes in his ward when he told the Scarborough Mirror last week that “a lot of the white people are moving out” of the area.

But he’s upset after seeing how his remarks were portrayed in the media.

“I’m physically sick because it (the story) is painting something that I’m not. I feel really betrayed. I’m exasperated. I’m on the verge of tears I’m so upset,” said Del Grande in an interview.

But colleagues aren’t offering the first-term councillor any sympathy.

Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York) said Del Grande’s statement smacks of racism and is “not acceptable by any elected official.”

“We should be celebrating the diversity of our city, the richness, talent and vitality,” Davis said.

Tam Goossen, past president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, called the remarks “really concerning” and “totally divisive,” referring also to comments where Del Grande said Chinese from Hong Kong and those from the mainland are clashing with each other in his ward.

“This is pitting groups against each other and that’s not the way a councillor should do his job,” Goossen said.

Councillor Joe Mihevc, who chaired city council’s task force on access and equity issues, called the remarks “totally inappropriate.”

“Our tradition has been to view each incoming group as an asset to the city.

“To hear someone say white people are leaving and Chinese are coming in can be nothing other than a racist comment,” said Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s).

“Part of . . . anti-racism work is knowing what you don’t know. Maybe Michael needs to know a little bit more about what he doesn’t know,” Mihevc said.

“That means that you approach these kinds of issues with greater humility, which is lesson number one in equity training.”

But Del Grande, first elected in November, 2003, insisted he supports cultural diversity and treats everyone equally. Mirror reporter David Nickle said he stands by the accuracy of the story.

Late last week, Del Grande reiterated his comments that his neighbourhood is losing its white population.

“Was ‘white people’ not the most politically correct (term)? The reality is long-term residents of the neighbourhood have moved out and if you look at the census, they’re primarily English (or British) background,” Del Grande said.

“I should have said many older residents of the community (are moving out). I didn’t say it in a politically correct way.”

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