Nova Scotia coun­cil­lor re­signs over al­leged racist com­ments by col­leagues

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY HARRY SUL­LI­VAN

A Colch­ester County, N.S., coun­cil­lor has re­signed be­cause of al­leged racist com­ments and views of other coun­cil­lors.

“Yes, I re­signed from county coun­cil,” said Doug MacInnes, who un­til Mon­day morn­ing had rep­re­sented con­stituents of District 9 since Oc­to­ber 2012. “It’s a moral de­ci­sion on my part, I can’t be as­so­ci­ated with racism.

MacInnes stressed his de­ci­sion “does not” rep­re­sent coun­cil as a whole.

“My ac­tions to re­sign from county coun­cil stem from the ac­tions of two coun­cil­lors in par­tic­u­lar... with racial com­ments in the past, racial com­ments just re­cently and, over the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of, I would say the last three years. It’s been an on­go­ing is­sue for my­self of com­ments that I heard, I’ve wit­nessed them and I just can’t tol­er­ate them any­more.”

Al­though MacInnes would not iden­tify the coun­cil­lors in ques­tion, the Truro Daily News has con­firmed them to be Tom Tag­gart and Lloyd Gibbs, who were in­volved in a three-way dis­cus­sion in a Truro restau­rant on April 25 in which com­ments were al­legedly made against Mus­lims.

The third mem­ber at the ta­ble was De­bert res­i­dent B.J. Tan.

Also sit­ting nearby in the restau­rant at the time was Stephanie Si­mon­sen, a friend of Mayor Chris­tine Blair, who came in to join her af­ter the others were all present.

The next day, Si­mon­sen posted a mes­sage on Face­book di­rected at “the two county coun­cil­lors who were hav­ing a dis­cus­sion in a pub­lic place …” and whom she al­leged were hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion that dealt with talk about “shoot­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau,” ban­ning the Ko­ran as hate speech and blow­ing up all mosques.

“You need to re­sign your seats and al­low for by­elec­tions to elect coun­cil­lors who are not so racist and ig­no­rant. You can also shove your male white priv­i­lege up your a---,” she wrote.

Tag­gart and Gibbs both ac­knowl­edged they are the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are be­ing re­ferred to in the Face­book post­ing.

But they also both de­nied mak­ing any racist state­ments dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

“I said ab­so­lutely noth­ing that any­body could at­tribute to, as be­ing racist,” Tag­gart said, when asked about the al­le­ga­tions.

Gibbs ad­mit­ted to speak­ing out against Sharia law dur­ing the dis­cus­sion but he too adamantly de­nied mak­ing any racist com­ments against Mus­lim peo­ple.

Gibbs said while he did talk about his dis­taste for Sharia law it­self, his po­si­tion was not against Mus­lims them­selves.

“I have Mus­lim friends,” he said. “I do not hate the Mus­lim peo­ple … I never said any­thing about the Mus­lim peo­ple. If that’s what they call racist, by speak­ing out against Sharia law, then I guess I’m a racist.”

Tan, who im­mi­grated to Canada from Malaysia more than four decades ago at about age 30, and who used to live un­der Sharia law, said his com­ments were di­rected at those who fol­low its strict teach­ings, es­pe­cially in re­gard to cer­tain sec­tions of the Ko­ran that pro­mote killing, be­head­ings and other acts con­ducted by mem­bers of ISIS.

“Sharia laws are laws that are en­cour­aged by the Ko­ran, and it is a ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion to live un­der Sharia law,” he said.

Tan also said he dis­agrees with the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy as it ap­plies to Mus­lims. But he said that is only in ref­er­ence to those who do not agree with up­hold­ing the Cana­dian con­sti­tu­tion.

“I don’t agree with the im­por­ta­tion of Mus­lims who em­brace the teach­ings of the Ko­ran in full.”

All three men said they do not re­call any part of the dis­cus­sion that in­volved talk of shoot­ing the prime min­is­ter.

“That’s ridicu­lous,” Gibbs said. “I re­ally deny this busi­ness about any­body at our ta­ble talk­ing about killing our prime min­is­ter.”

MacInnes said the whole is­sue of racism around the coun­cil ta­ble be­gan ap­prox­i­mately three years ago when he heard an­other coun­cil­lor mak­ing dis­parag­ing com­ments about rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Main­land Mi’kmaq.

Blair said she did not hear any of the al­leged com­ments.

How­ever, with ev­ery­thing com­bined, and see­ing no ac­tion be­ing taken against the coun­cil­lors in ques­tion, MacInnes said he de­cided he had had enough.

“I be­lieve those com­ments were made at that ta­ble. I don’t know who said what,” he said. “I can’t as­so­ciate my­self with these in­di­vid­u­als, morally.”

FILE PHOTO

Doug MacInnes

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