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Bigotry has no place in Toronto’s election campaign: Editorial

Hateful messages scrawled on Munira Abukar's campaign signs are just some of the disturbing actions in Toronto's election campaign

Toronto Star Editorial
Thursday, October 16, 2014

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For a city of 2.8 million people, half of us visible minorities and immigrants, Toronto is a remarkably tolerant, welcoming and inclusive place. Every mall, grocery store and subway platform speaks to the vibrant human mosaic that is one of our great strengths.

All the more troubling, then, that the city’s municipal election campaign should be marred by bigotry directed at candidates for office. While few in number amid the cut-and-thrust of politics in a metropolis where more than 600 people are running for mayor, council or school trustee, incidents of racism, misogyny and homophobia are no less ugly for being exceptional.

They need to be aggressively called out by everyone from mayoral front-runners John Tory, Doug Ford (open Doug Ford's policard) and Olivia Chow on down, and labelled for what they are: A vicious affront to the pluralistic, accepting city we love.

Sadly, Mayor Rob Ford (open Rob Ford's policard)set an appallingly poor example for his supporters and the wider community alike during his troubled time in office. He has refused to march in the Pride parade. And his coarsely offensive slurs against Jews, blacks, Italians and others were caught on tape. So was his rank sexism. He apologized for his “poor judgment” while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. But not everyone has seen the error of such ways.

Just a few days ago someone defaced a campaign sign for council candidate Munira Abukar (Ward 2, Etobicoke North). The vandal scrawled “Go Back Home” in red across a photo of her in hijab, defaced her face and wrote “bitch” across her name. It was “a very hateful message,” the 22-year-old Somali-Canadian reported. Doug Ford, the current Ward 2 councillor, rightly called it “disgusting.”

Equally revolting was the hate letter that Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (open Kristyn Wong-Tam's policard) (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) received. It said, among other vile things, “I hope you get AIDS and die in public office.” Wong-Tam, who is gay, has called Rob Ford “homophobic” for his lack of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The letter was signed “I support Ford Nation.”

And of course mayoral candidate Olivia Chow had to endure racist heckling from a Ford supporter — including shouts of “Go home, Olivia! Back to China” and “She’s Chinese! She’s not Canadian!” — during a debate at York Memorial Collegiate. Chow has also attracted a slew of racist and sexist abuse on her Facebook wall, reflecting her high-profile status as a progressive female candidate.

Marginal as these vile interventions are, they must not go unchallenged. And when they occur at public venues they shouldn’t be shrugged off as ignorant hot air. Every candidate worthy of office should denounce any supporters who cross the line into racism, sexism and homophobia, and decry such views.

There is no place for bigotry and worse in our public discourse. It disses us all.

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