Essex councillors side with integrity commissioner over controversial tweet
Published Tuesday, May 18, 2021 7:45AM EDT
ESSEX, ONT. -- Essex council agrees with its integrity commissioner that councillor Chris Vander Doelen violated the town's code of conduct following a controversial tweet posted last month.
After contracting COVID-19, Vander Doelen tweeted:
“My test for the Chinese Flu came back positive. So I Hafta lay low for another week. A punishment worse than the illness proved to be.”
“If I were a private citizen there could be no charges because no law was broken. It is legal to utter the words Chinese flu,” says Vander Doelen.
On Monday, council voted 6-1 in favour of Robert Swayze’s three recommendations Vander Doelen must now follow or face a suspension. They include:
- Remove all tweets from his Twitter account which refer to the Chinese Flu, China Virus, the Chinese Origin Virus and/or the Murderous China Regime
- Prepare a draft apology for the approval of the Integrity Commissioner to be read by him in an open session of Council, and
- Attend an in-person Diversity and Inclusion training session chosen by staff and paid for by the Town. If staff advises the Integrity Commissioner that the course is only available remotely, the training may be attended online.
“Nothing with this issue has the slightest thing to do with the Town of Essex’s actual business,” says Vander Doelen.
According to the integrity commissioner, Swayze says the code of conduct for the Town of Essex prohibits speaking in a manner which is discriminatory based on a persons race or place of origin.
“I do believe we are held to a higher standard. I do believe our words matter more than most peoples,” says councillor Steve Bjorkman.
“I’m not saying you’re racist but people are hurt in our community and in our region,” added fellow councillor Sherry Bondy.
Vander Doelen says he’s known many leaders from the local Chinese Canadian community for over 30 years and has publicly apologized to them.
“There was nothing racist or remotely hateful or even vaguely insulting about my tweets and it is slanderous to suggest that.”
Should Vander Doelen fail to perform any one of the three requirements by July 2021, he faces a suspension for a period of 60 days without pay.
The Essex councillor stayed true to his word Monday evening stating he will not take down the tweets or attend diversity training, paid for by tax payers.
“I would be letting down far too many residents in ward 3, the rest of the people in the town of Essex if I submit to this giant lie in any way.”