A North Saanich councillor is questioning the municipality’s anti-discrimination policy.
Coun. Jack McClintock said policies often respond to something that is broken.
“I don’t believe the issue of discrimination is broken in the District of North Saanich,” he told Black Press Media in an interview.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t establish firmly that all races be treated equally, then perhaps it might become a wedge. I would like to promote the notion that discrimination has no boundaries, that it applies to all people equally.”
At Monday’s (Nov. 1) council meeting, McClintock expressed concern about the direction of the municipality’s proposed policy, which draws on similar initiatives elsewhere. He asked staff several questions about the draft policy.
“Under colour, is white a colour?” he asked at one stage. “… we are seeing movements against the white person. We are also hearing white slurs.”
Asked later by Black Press Media to clarify his comments, McClintock said no one has used “slurs in relations to (his) skin colour,” but he pointed to what he called “extremism” in the U.S. “My concern is that a lot of things that happen in the United States will happen in Canada.”
At the meeting, North Saanich staff asked McClintock to confirm the definitions in the draft policy he believed required additional clarification. His concerns included the language used around harassment.
The proposed policy defines harassment as a “form of discrimination” and “behaviour that a reasonable person would (find) unwelcome” and lists several prohibited grounds of discrimination taken from the B.C. Human Rights Code, including race, colour, ancestry and others.
“It talks about race, it talks about colour. Is white a colour in this?” McClintock asked staff.
“That is open to an individual interpretation,” answered Rachel Dumas, North Saanich’s director of corporate services.
Tim Tanton, North Saanich’s chief administrative officer, later pointed McClintock to another definition in the policy. People of Colour (POC) “means non-white racial or ethnic groups; the term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism,” it reads.
Tanton said the definition “implies that white is not a colour,” adding that a legal answer to McClintock’s question would require lawyers to clarify.
McClintock acknowledged the POC definition, “but it seems to have different meanings about what colour means. If this whole anti-discrimination (policy) doesn’t protect all people … there are movements that are anti-white, there are people who use anti-white slurs, and I was just wondering if there is something in there that protects all people.”
McClintock, a former police officer, said he knows people qualifying as visible minorities who have suffered greatly. “But I don’t think the elimination of one group of people would make this as homogeneous as it could possibly be.”
He also asked staff to clarify the definitions of cultural racism, environmental racism, inclusive language, institutional racism, racialized groups and visible minorities, among other concepts. Of visible minorities, the policy uses the federal government definition, “persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.”
“What is the umbrella of non-Caucasian?” he asked.
Several long, uncomfortable silences greeted McClintock’s line of questioning, and at one stage Dumas declined to answer his questions.
McClintock stated, “If it is not clear to me, it may not be clear to the public,” he said.
Council voted to direct staff to clarify questions about the policy, including those brought up by McClintock, and bring it back to council at a later date.
Asked by Black Press Media how he might deal with the perception he is framing white people as victims of mistreatment against a framework that they have historically mistreated non-whites, McClintock said that is why a “lot of people are tip-toeing around this stuff.
“I think it is important to get it out there and have a conversation about it. We can talk about things that have happened historically (and) we can never forget history.
“But we also have to learn from history. You used the words in regard to what white people have done in the past. Those are your words. But we are talking about the future. If we have learned anything, is that by exclusion, people feel marginalized. That’s all I am asking for – inclusion.”
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