Volume 92, Issue 24

Friday, October 16, 1998

arresting developments


City rejects touchy proclamation

By Ian Ross
Gazette Staff

The City of London came within inches last week of issuing a proclamation for a European Heritage Week linked to Nazi sympathizers.

After approving a request from the European Heritage Committee for the week of Oct. 14-20, following normal application procedures earlier this month, the issue of racism was brought to light by the Canadian Jewish Congress last Thursday morning. City Hall then took a day and a half before an emergency meeting of council was called for late Friday night where the proclamation was rescinded by all 13 attending councillors.

Bernie Farber, chairman of the CJC, explained sources informed his association of the proclamation and his congress was quick to communicate its findings to London's City Hall – that the applicants were directly associated with white supremacist groups.

Kathy Best, manager of legislative services at London City Council, said the reason the request slipped through the cracks was the written copy met the criteria needed for approval.

"This one came in with wording that was inoffensive," she said. She added a rejection can only be made under current regulations for inflammatory, politically insensitive, provoking or scatological reasons.

The application by Robert Mold-Zinski-Smith of Toronto did not violate any of these restrictions at the surface of his request, Best said.

Mold-Zinski-Smith was unavailable for comment.

Farber said he was extremely happy the highly offensive campaign was never allowed to see the light of day, but was disappointed with the procedures followed by the city.

He described the process as a struggle, after initial correspondence with city council seemed to fall on deaf ears. It wasn't until direct calls were made to the mayor and deputy mayor that things started to happen.

"The wheels in London were not turning the way they should have," he said.

Best explained much of the delay was the result of the new policy. "It was a difficult issue. There is nothing in [city clerk] policy to overturn it," she said.

The City of London recently changed its policy for proclamations after Mayor Diane Haskett was ruled by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to have violated the rights of homosexuals by dismissing a request for a Gay Pride Day. Power is now in the hands of the city clerk and not the mayor's office.

Jeff Clayman, president of Western's Jewish Students Union, said he was happy the CJC dealt with the issue quickly.

"The CJC did an excellent job," he said. "They took the appropriate steps – I'm happy they handled it in the way they did."

This is the 17th request for a proclamation since the change in policy and the first to be turned down.

Farber added the group has attempted similar events in cities across Canada from Victoria to Halifax, without success.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998