A week after posting a video of himself and a passenger doing a Chinese fire drill, Halifax Coun. Matt Whitman removed it saying it was a “distraction.”
Over the weekend several online critics labelled the video “racist.” It shows Whitman sitting in a car yelling “Chinese fire drill” before getting out of the car and running around it with a passenger. They then get back in having switched seats.
“‘Chinese fire drill’ is the kind of thing that should get people fired from public office,” tweeted Melissa Mackie on Saturday. Adding that she thought it was “racist.”
The video was posted to the District 13 councillor’s YouTube page on March 19. It was removed on March 26.
“This is racist and inappropriate behaviour from a public official (and parent),” Ian Bezanson tweeted.
WATCH: Halifax councilor Matt Whitman calls his ‘Chinese fire drill’ video a ‘distraction’ – Marieke Walsh reports
Whitman is also the Progressive Conservative candidate for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville in the provincial election – which has not yet been called. Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie was not available for an interview about the video and the party declined to give a comment.
Whitman refused to give an interview.
“This past Sunday I decided to remove the video after seeing the distraction it became,” he said in a text message. “I look forward to continuing to meet with constituents in Hammonds Plains-Lucasville to talk about the issues that matter to them.”
Dalhousie professor concerned by ‘racist overtones’
“A concern that I have about the term is the racist origin and hence racist overtones,” Senator and Dalhousie professor Wanda Thomas Bernard said in an email.
The term dates back to a botched fire drill during the Second World War, according to University of King’s College professor Simon Kow.
“Some people will find it offensive,” he said. “It obviously taps into a stereotype about Chinese meaning something which is chaotic, confused, incompetent that sort of thing.”
Kow, who is of Chinese descent, said in the context of more extreme comments made by public figures, the content of the video isn’t surprising.
“It’s not OK,” he said. “People should be careful how they use language they should be thoughtful about their language especially those in the public sphere.”
Bernard said she sees this as a teachable moment and wants to know if the history of the term was known.
“I believe that we need more authentic conversations about racism, to help us all better understand racism and its impacts,” she said.
RCMP ‘investigating’ the video
The Mounties say the video has been brought to their attention and they are “investigating the matter and whether any offences have occurred.”
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said police are also investigating whether the video was made while the car was on the road. She said the RCMP discourages people from this type of action while driving.
A resident has also sent a complaint to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and to Baillie.