Councillor in Pickering, Ont., posts controversial op-ed criticizing Black History Month

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Pickering councillor getting heat after writing op-ed about Black History Month
Pickering city councillor Lisa Robinson is feeling a lot of pressure after penning an op-ed criticizing Black History Month. The Ward 1 councillor challenges the idea of celebrates black history, claiming it should be more 'inclusive'. Frazer Snowdon has the story. – Feb 9, 2024

The mayor of Pickering, Ont., is outraged after one of his councillors has once again made controversial comments.

Ward 1 councillor Lisa Robinson recently penned an op-ed in a local Durham newspaper calling for Black History Month to be cancelled.

“It’s so out of tune. It’s hurtful, it’s nonsensical. And, I believe it’s racist,” Mayor Kevin Ashe said.  “I’m very troubled… a member of my council, our council, would use that type of language because it does not represent what the city is about.”

In the article — posted in a grassroots paper called the ‘Central Durham Newspaper’ — Robinson questions the need for Black History Month, writing “Why in this modern age, are we so driven by colour”

In another quote she says “slavery is not a black and white issue.”

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In an interview with Global News, Robinson said she denounces Ashe’s accusations of racisim. “I think it’s very disturbing. I think it’s wrong what he has done. You know, he’s never even sat down and had a conversation with me.”

Robinson also said she believes the very idea of Black History Month separates us as a society and creates more division.

“We need to put an end to the creation of an environment that fosters racism and judging individuals solely based on the colour of their skin… It only creates a breeding ground for racism to exist.”

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Although Robinson said she supports all people, regardless of colour and background, Pickering author and educator Shallene Drakes-Tull said the councillor’s suggestion will only create more division. The problem, Drakes-Tull said, is a lack of education of why Black History Month is needed.

“For someone to say that we don’t need Black History Month, it’s divisive, shows that you don’t understand how people have to navigate through this world,” Drakes-Tull said.

“Our school systems are not giving Black students, Asian, Indigenous students the history they need to feel connected to this country. To me, it says that she is very uneducated about the history of people in this country.”

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But for Robinson, who was elected into the Ward 1 riding last year, recognizing people and communities should colour-blind.

“I think that if we are going to have a month of dedicated history, let’s make a month that is truly around history itself. It doesn’t need to revolve solely around the colour of ones skin.”

This is not the  first time Robinson has caused controversy for the city. Last year city council censured her after a number of integrity investigations. One centred on her request that age restrictions be put on events such as Pride and drag-queen story time. Robinson said she was responding to safety concerns that she and constituents had about such events.

In the end, she was docked more than 60 days pay.

But the Ward 1 councillor stands by what she said and claims she’s seen a world of support since posting the article.

“I have been receiving an overwhelming amount of positive responses, and that’s from people of all colours, all backgrounds.”

Pickering’s mayor, meanwhile, is looking to provincial anti-harassment legislation to hold the outspoken councillor to account.

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“I’m learning this is a pattern of behaviour which is negatively impacting our community, the reputation of our city and the reputation of our council,” Ashe said. “And it has to stop.”


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