There is a lot of information coming out about what is happening in the City of Sarnia right now that I think needs some clarifying. At the risk of revealing things that were meant to stay in closed meetings, I think there are details that need to be shared to give a better overview of this for the public. Here is my summary along with an order of events that would be hard to dissect based on the articles that are coming out along with some new information that I will share.
October 20, 2021 – There were questions about whether the diversity training should be done in a closed meeting. KOJO Institute suggested that it not be made public because it was a training workshop and not really meant for public consumption and that it would be a safer learning environment without the live stream. Seeing as there was no other mechanism for a private, all-council meeting, it was decided to do this meeting in a closed session. They actually wanted to record it but were told it would not be permitted since it was a closed session.
Nov 15, 2021 – Sarnia City Council takes this Diversity training seminar in closed meeting (this means that it is not streamed to the public and it is not recorded). This was led by brilliant Kike Ojo-Thompson with the KOJO Institute. In this meeting there were a few councillors that were hostile, racist, sexist and completely disrespectful and inappropriate to Kike. They chose to debate, insult, override her session and challenge the reason for taking training like this. There were multiple opportunities for the mayor, who chairs every meeting, to step in and correct those councillors that were off base; he did not do that. Needless to say, the session was frustrating for those of us that really were learning and welcoming the instructor and her content. A few of us councillors were embarrassed by the actions of the others and reached out to apologize and thank Kike for her patience and professionalism handling the inappropriate remarks and hostility that were aimed at her.
Dec 8, 2021 – KOJO Institute issues a letter to the City of Sarnia that was recently written about in the Sarnia Journal on Feb 22, 2022. In this letter it states “The undisputed, uncorrected, and unabated hostility demonstrated by some members of Council toward our Principal Consultant Kike Ojo-Thompson was wholly inappropriate.” KOJO Institute had completed their contract with an opportunity to engage in future ones with the Sarnia Police and City of Sarnia but had decided to not engage future contracts with us.
Dec 13, 2021 – I made a motion in a closed meeting to make this letter public because I think the public should be made aware of what is going on within our leadership positions of the city. In this closed meeting, Bill Dennis worried that this letter would become public and continued to scream and threaten me while saying:
“You might be seeing what 7,000 shares of Amazon stock will be buying in terms of legal ramifications. I’m saying that if this is released and it’s this sort of thing has been released to the public before. Councillor Colquhoun has made stuff public on his website before. I will come down like a hammer with a lawsuit.”
The motion did not pass and so the letter stayed confidential.
Dec 17, 2021 – I formally filed an integrity commissioner complaint against Bill Dennis for threatening to sue me for making a motion and for other insulting remarks to the mayor that he made. I also included in this complaint his demeanour in the diversity training class towards the instructor and quotes from an email thread after that I had with him where he accused the instructor of being a radical extremist and accused her of attempting to indoctrinate him. Personally, I do not appreciate nor care about the Integrity Commissioner’s role – I find it a waste of taxpayer money and juvenile that we cannot simply let the public make their own decisions. That said, since this was in a closed meeting, I thought the public had a right to know the actions of their elected officials and thus felt this was the best way to share it.
Feb 8, 2022 – The Integrity Commissioner sends a letter to me dismissing my complaint saying that he found insufficient grounds to investigate considering he could find no “harm to the public with respect to the conduct of a member at a closed meeting.” The irony of the IC not being able to see how someone threatening someone else in private has nothing to do with integrity is not lost on me.
Feb 21, 2022 – The Sarnia Journal released two separate stories that were actually connected. The first story was about the ending of the contract with KOJO Institute. The second story was about the infighting and Integrity Commissioner complaints that have been filed. The complaint I was speaking of in the one article was specifically about the actions and threats that came from Bill because of his stance on the diversity training session.
The first article states: “It was a training session and not a council meeting so the mayor did not chair it, Bradley said. “Or I would have disrupted what they were trying to do.”
One is still chairing the meeting even if you have passed off the meeting for a presentation. The mayor had the responsibility to interrupt and keep the meeting on track which he did not do. While we all understand how difficult it is to get order on a Zoom call especially with some aggravators, I think it is an unfair position to take that he ‘would’ have if there was some different circumstance. The fact is that he should have, and he didn’t. It is also telling that the mayor knew that these other councillors were “trying to do” something. I wonder what he thought they were trying to do?
Why is this important to me? There is nothing more backwards for our city than powerful people building a platform of supporting Sarnia businesses and citizens for the purpose of building up their own reputation. We have numerous racists and sexists on our council and it is becoming more and more blatant, but at the same time, these same people are building up social media followings trying to come across as someone that cares about the city. So, it’s important to me because the public deserves to know the character of the people they have elected; see them for who they really are by shedding some light on their attitude and and actions. We cannot build a safe and equitable community for all when our leadership is more interested in their own self-promotion, hateful ideology and hiding the truth.
I am meeting more and more people every day here in Sarnia who do not feel safe, who have been harassed and harmed, who do not experience their leaders looking out for them and who feel the need to leave as soon as the opportunity presents itself. And while I encourage them to do whatever they need to do to protect themselves and be in a place where they can flourish, while I am here, I think it is critical to challenge the toxic systems that are in place and attempt to work towards facing the inherent racism within ourselves and the way our city operates.
So, to all of you who have been on the receiving end of this abhorrent behaviour and come up against the systemic barriers from Sarnia, I stand with you, I love you and I will continue to shine a light on the dark corners of our city wherever I can. Peace and love to you all.