Volume 92, Issue 26

Wednesday, October, 21 1998

bound and gagged


Proclaiming trouble

By Mark Brown, Sharon Navarro and Dave Yasvinski
Gazette Staff

After barely avoiding offering a proclamation to a group associated with white supremacists two weeks ago, London's City Council voted at Monday's council meeting to do away with proclamations altogether.

In addition, the council narrowly passed a motion proposed by councillor Megan Walker to refer any official action by Dianne Haskett to a London Race Relations Advisory Committee.

This motion will give an unelected body the ability to scrutinize the events and functions she supports, in addition to screening letters of support to various endeavors, Haskett said.

"There was no justification for it whatsoever," she said. "This is clearly a personal attack that has been confirmed by a number of people.

"I see it as a serious infringement on my rights as a Canadian and my ability to carry out my normal functions as mayor," Haskett said.

She said she believed this motion stemmed from a grudge held by councillor Walker. "She is unable to forget my reluctance to issue a gay pride proclamation in 1995."

Walker defended her reasons for bringing the motion before council as it will ensure taxpayers that everything dealt with is official, adding this issue was not personal and the motion should be looked at from a municipal perspective.

London City Council controller, Diane Whiteside, said the council meeting was ridiculous and blasted Haskett for lambasting council's decision to support the motion. "Once again the mayor has succeeded in pitting people against people, councillors against councillors and organizations against organizations," she said.

This was not a "Haskett thing" or a "persecution thing" but a step in the right direction towards ending discrimination in London, Whiteside added.

Whiteside said Haskett's failure to apologize to people like the Homophile Association of London Ontario, for refusing to offer them a proclamation for gay pride week three years ago, is indicative of London's discrimination problems.

"The work gets harder and harder because the mayor keeps dragging it down. She has discriminated – she is the reason why we are in this mess in the first place," she said.

Haskett was more encouraged yesterday after she met with councillors who told her they supported her and would consider changing their position because they did not fully understand the severity of the motion.

If council wanted to overturn its decision it would require a two-thirds majority vote. Whiteside said she believed there is a strong possibility the vote could be overturned since many councillors are afraid of the mayor's strong public support.

Sandy Levin, councillor for ward one, said it did not make any sense to refer the actions of any mayor or of any municipality to any advisory committee, as that is what the policies are in place for. "This was totally unnecessary."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998