And What An Embarrassment Bylsma Is To Our Niagara Region!
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted June 15th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
Less than two weeks ago today, Niagara’s Regional Chair Jim Bradley – in the wake of the horrific death of another African American that set off world-wide demonstrations against racism – did us all proud by beginning a meeting of the Region’s council with these words –
“First,” said Bradley, “our thoughts are with the friends and family of George Floyd. Much has been reported about this incident over the past 11 days and it can become easy to lose sight of the individual at the core of this case. It is important to remember that Mr. Floyd was a real person, with the same hopes and dreams and concerns that each of us have. ….
“Second,” Niagara’s Regional Chair continued, “on behalf of Niagara Region, I want to offer a full and unequivocal condemnation of racism and discrimination, regardless of what form it takes. Whether it is overt or systemic, there is no place for this type of behaviour in our region, province or country. This council, I know, rejects all forms of exclusion and intolerance. …
“As we all can recognize, we are not immune to the effects of racism in Canada.”
Apparently, we are not immune to racism on Niagara’s Regional Council either.
Indeed, on June 11th – just seven days after Bradley spoke those welcome words – West Lincoln Mayor David Byslma, who also holds one of 32 seats on the Region’s Council, went on a CKTB 610 AM Heart Radio program and, when asked why hi9s municipality is the only one of 12 in Niagara not flying a Pride flag for Pride Month this June, did us the disservice of opening his mouth.
And what Bylsma said on the Heart Radio program, laid naked what is, at the very least, a breathtaking amount of ignorance when it comes to the racism and intolerance that a number of groups, including people of colour, members of the LGBTQ2+ community and Indigenous peoples in Canada are continuing to endure to this day.
Bylsma questioned why groups like Black Lives Matter LGBTQ2+ community feel it necessary to go on flying their flags and banners, suggesting that their insistence on continuing to do it after 30 or more years has created a kind of “identity politics” that has possibly caused more divisions and even more violence between people, than it has prevented
It’s as if to say that by standing up, rather than staying in the closet and being quiet, these groups have brought more grief upon themselves.
Here we go again. Nothing worse than an uppity member of the Indigenous or LGBTQ2+ communities or the Black Lives Matter movement. What’s their problem, anyway?
“In the Black Lives Matter,” continued Bylsma during an interview that was as disturbing as it was disappointing to listen to, “I would be holding a sign that says; “All Lives Matter.”
Of course, some of us have heard that one before – a line that is as disgusting for suggesting that people of colour in the United States and Canada do not believe that all lives matter, as it is for ignoring or trying to de-legitimize the whole point behind the phrase – that black people on this continent have been suffering from racial prejudice, right up to and including the most brutal forms of violence, since the first slave ships landed on the shores of North America 401 years ago.
Whether Bylsma is a racist or a “bigot,” as St. Catharines Liberal MP Chris Bittle called him in a recent tweet, may be an open question, but his words are of the kind racists and bigots speak, and they do a disservice to the public office he holds.
And whether or not they represent an embarrassment for the people of West Lincoln, is up to them to decide, but I am sure willing to bet that many people across this region feel they are an embarrassment to Niagara at a time when countless millions around the world are searching for more peace and understanding.
Mayor Byslma, you owe the people of Niagara and you certainly owe the members of the groups you have offended a full and open public apology.
Your resignation from public office might serve our Niagara region well too.
For a link to a Heart Radio/610 AM CKTB story on this, click on the following link – https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/news/1.12662432
To listen to the June 11th, Heart Radio interview with West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma, click on – https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/audio/pride-flag-issue-at-city-hall-1.12661666?mode=Article
To read a news commentary Niagara At Large posted on Niagara Regional chair Bradley recent statement on racism and discrimination, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/06/05/in-wake-of-george-floyd-killing-niagara-regional-chair-affirms-councils-rejection-of-all-forms-of-exclusion-and-intolerance/
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