Calling the motion a “witchhunt,” trustee Gordon Gilchrist was officially censured at the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board last night for his letter to a newspaper attacking immigration.
Before trustees voted unanimously to censure Gilchrist, eight members of the public spoke about the censuring bid. Only two spoke in defence of Gilchrist and his right to speak as a private citizen. “I feel violated and amazed at what he said tonight,” said Andrea Fatona from Peterborough’s Community and Race Relations Committee. “I was crying in there as he continued to defend his racism.”
Melinda Rees, executive director for Peterborough Community Legal Centre, read a letter condemning Gilchrist’s comments and said they have cast a dark cloud over the reputation of the school board.
“I am saddened tonight to be publicly defending our board,” said chairwoman Diane Lloyd.
“This is the strongest action our board can take,” Lloyd said.
Gilchrist, trustee for Cobourg and Hamilton and Alnwick/ Haldimand townships, was also removed from the board’s program committee.
He voluntarily resigned from the expulsion committee.
“I accept full responsibility for the letter,” Gilchrist said. “And I recognize those comments have caused hurt to many of the immigrants to Canada.”
As Gilchrist spoke to the board, some people observing the meeting reacted with gasps and groans.
“This vindictive removal (from program committee) is unacceptable,” Gilchrist said. “Let’s not get silly and throw the baby out with the bath water.”
In his letter to the editor, which appeared in the Feb. 13 edition of the Port Hope Evening Guide, Gilchrist argued for the need to “turn off the immigration tap” by tightening up federal policy.
His letter prompted a follow-up letter from board chairwoman Diane Lloyd who stressed that Gilchrist did not speak for the board, nor does the board share his views on the issue.
In the days following the letter, a wave of criticism erupted from the community, including many local activists, community leaders, teachers and students.
“I was horrified when I read those comments,” said Marlowe Bork, who said he is the father of two young “mixed race” children at Prince of Wales Public School. “He didn’t say ‘I’m sorry. It was a moment of stupidity.’
“He said ‘I’m sorry you didn’t understand what I said.’”
Brian Cowie, the trustee for the First Nation band councils in Alderville, Curve Lake and Hiawatha, made an emotional plea for Gilchrist’s resignation.
“There is no apology for the content of the letter,” Cowie said. “As trustees, we are accountable.
“We want your resignation. It would be honourable at this time and I would accept it.”
As a trustee, Gilchrist is an elected official who is paid through taxpayer dollars to sit on the local public school board.
Although he can’t be fired from his position on the board, fellow trustee and equity and diversity committee chairwoman Verna Shackleton said censuring is a “symbolic action that affects credibility.”
According to board spokesman Greg Kidd, censuring is an expression of strong disapproval and acts as an official rebuke to a board member.
In light of his censuring, Gilchrist said he won’t be attending the board’s employee recognition dinner at the Best Western Inn in Cobourg on June 10, where he was scheduled to introduce the teachers who are retiring.
“It would be inappropriate at this time,” he said.
The following is the text of the letter from Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board trustee Gordon Gilchrist which led to his recent censure by the board. The letter originally appeared in the Port Hope Evening Guide and Cobourg Star on Feb. 13.
Let me be the first to accuse Mr. Jack Foote of prejudice. Clearly, Mr. Foote is prejudiced in favour of all that is good about Canada, and fearful of all those things which work against maintaining this, the finest country in the world. Good for you, Mr. Foote, I have seldom read Canadian cultural argument written with such pride, candour, clarity and conviction. Although an immigrant Canadian, Mr. Foote has recognized many of the changes foisted on this country by misguided politicians who were motivated only for re-election and not armed with the determination to sustain Canadian values through vision, patriotism and love of country, with its magnificent future potential. Instead, the failure of imposed multiculturalism, superimposed on the divisiveness of bilingualism, may ultimately prove the downfall of this magnificent country, in which I grew up and came to revere. As one who was born here, I feel compelled to write in support of Mr. Foote’s candid observations.
Mr. Foote has clearly described the crass imposition of bilingualism solely as a government vote-getting instrument, with no regard for the divisiveness it would cause, and he rightly deplores our damaging immigration policies. When will Canadians realize that there is no beneficial offset to the easily-obtained Canadian citizenship that should demand the allegiance of a newcomer? Most immigrants do not bring even a modest understanding of Canadian history or values. Many bring their old-country feuds and hatreds, to be paraded and re-fought on Canadian soil. How could such people be expected to understand and offer a staunch Canadian loyalty to the future of this “Western” country with its Western values when we don’t even ask, or require them to do so?
For example, consider the 800,000 Muslims now resident in Canada, some of whom are Islamic extremist. Do their Imams embrace and preach Western values, or do they condone the Islamic university student who declared on the Internet that it would be better to kill Canadian soldiers in Canada rather than let them fight in Afghanistan? Or what about their low regard for women and their “eastern” Sharia law beliefs that allow a father to kill his daughter for not wearing a Habib? Or Indian immigrants who blow up aircraft in order to settle old, foreign scores, and who demand that Mounties wear turbans and students wear daggers to school? Or gun- toting Jamaicans who prefer to settle scores by bullets on the streets rather than by Canadian law in the courts? Or Sri Lankan Tamils who use Canada as a source of funds for homeland rebellion? Or Canadian passport-carrying Leb-anese residents who demand to be saved by Canada when their homeland goes up in flames?
I do not suggest forcing landed Canadians to return to their home countries. A deal is a deal! But we should not be allowing further reinforcements for questionable causes and we don’t need more people to bring with them foreign problems as well as cause more domestic ones. Left un-reinforced, these new “Canadians” may ultimately learn to love the true meaning of being “Canadian” and we should be accelerating such change in attitude by teaching more Canadian history and civics in our schools.
But why do we continue to delude ourselves that we are better off with a virtual “open door” policy on immigration? Do we not recognize that in addition to creating a modern “Trojan Horse” situation, these quasi-Canadians cause Canada additional economic and environmental distress? Do they not require public support funds? Do they not take Canadian jobs? Do they not cause increased use of scarce agricultural land for new dwellings? Do they not buy cars which add to road congestion and increase environmental pollution? Do they not cause the U.S., our good neighbour and major trading partner, concern about our sieve-like immigration policies and who are now tightening up a formerly open border? Do they not reduce each Canadian citizen’s share of this country’s wealth? Do they not congregate in ghetto-like enclaves to harbour their own particular ethnic complaints, while they make demands against the Canadian establishment? (Africentric schools, for example.)
It is an great fallacy to believe that we “need” major immigration. Canada should only admit people who have the particular skills Canada needs and who share Canadians’ beliefs. We Canadians, who have shown such courage and resolve over the past three centuries, have certainly become apathetic about our glorious history, our former and now dwindling reputation for law and order, our prevention of foreign takeover of our industries, our language, our national pride, our former good influence in world affairs, and our resolve to defend and maintain, unsullied, this beautiful and blessed land, for our children and all future generations.
If Canadians would spend as much time condemning the immigration of uninformed, mis-fitting, and sometimes violent immigrants who are aberrations to Canadian society, as we do carping about our American friends, our neighbours, and protectors, we would be far better off and a far happier country. Why do we welcome our enemies, but disparage our friends? History requires us to share North America with our American friends, but it does not require us to undermine our society by splitting it into a hundred incompatible parts, with some of those parts anathema to Canada’s well being.
Thank goodness for “new” Canadians like Mr. Foote who see us for what we are, what we were, and what we may become because of our preoccupation with the political correctness that muzzles open discussion of all that is worthwhile in Canada, and denies what most Canadians want for our country.
For goodness sake people, get excited about this travesty, get involved. . .&nsbp;. call your MP and tell him to turn off the immigration tap before it’s too late.
GORDON GILCHRIST Baltimore
Gordon Gilchrist, Port Hope (Ontario) Evening Guide, February 19, 2008
To the Editor:
Please let me begin by thanking Roy Cowan and all the phone callers who have supported my Letter to the Editor of Feb. 13. I am glad that they have interpreted my remarks as matters of citizenship and not those of racism.
Racism has no place in our society and I, like any other thinking person, deplore such. My personal remarks, and I wish to stress “personal”, were not racially intended.
There are dozens of examples of poor citizenship being evidenced today, in press and media, that should concern all Canadians. I gave some examples but they were not intended to impugn all honest, hard-working and loyal citizens of any race.
I think of the dozens of races and the myriad of their citizens who are such law-abiding Canadians, and who have come to love and respect this country.
For the past 37 years I have had the pleasure of donating and presenting prizes to graduates of several high schools in Cobourg and Scarborough, and at Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. Almost without exception the winners have been Chinese-Canadians, Indo-Canadians and African-Canadians. It has been a pleasure to see such successful young citizens and to reward them for their constructive efforts.
However, I am sorely distressed that good people like Douglas Smith, George James and Daniel Christie have interpreted my remarks as racist. They were not intended to be and if the fault is in my writing, I am truly sorry.
Although I wrote as a private citizen, I feel I should clarify the situation because of my relationship to the Board of Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board.
I wish to state, categorically that I believe that every child, every single child, is as worthy and as deserving of a good education and an equitable life style as any other child. That is first and foremost in my mind as I go about my duties as trustee, and that will continue to be my creed.
My earlier remarks had only to do with citizenship, good citizenship, by all immigrants and their children and not the outrageous actions in the few examples I gave. It would be as wrong to tar all such races and citizens with the same brush as it would be to declare that all Canadians are apathetic about excessive immigration.
Canada is not the only country facing such a problem. It was about that aspect and none other that I wrote.
The present immigration goal of one per cent of our population each year is an amount Canada cannot handle and integrate successfully. The Toronto District School Board is already having to divert funds from other envelopes just to provide English as a Second Language students with training in the language of their new country, and many new Canadians cannot find jobs to suit their skills.
Integration is a huge problem, but it has nothing to do with race or colour. That was the theme I was trying to convey and for that my remarks remain. If I am guilty of anything, I would like it to be too much in love with this country, its people, young and old, and its beauty. As one who has been so fortunate as to have lived east, west and centre, that love will never change.
However, if I have offended anyone by the lack of clarity in my remarks, I do sincerely apologize. My regard for the good principles of equity and diversity are undiminished and will continue to be given their due place in all my actions.
Gordon Gilchrist / Baltimore