Brock Township’s Integrity Commissioner has recommended that Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden make a “sincere apology” for using a racially insensitive term earlier this year.
A complaint filed by former Ward 4 councillor Therese Miller notes that Mayor Bath-Hadden used the term “Indian giver” during a budget presentation from Fire Chief Rick Harrison at a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 7.
While she acknowledged the phrase was “politically incorrect” at the time, no formal action was taken by members of council.
Mayor Bath-Hadden later reached out to Chief Harrison to personally apologize.
She also apologized publicly during a council meeting on July 13 following the launch of the investigation and after a video clip of the comment was circulated on social media.
“I am very disappointed, though, that through social media, a video has popped up in an attempt to discredit myself. I am not going to give any further play on this video. I have apologized more than once for a comment that I had made during our budget discussions and I have acknowledged it was in bad taste. At no time was there any intention on administering harm towards anyone. I am in no way perfect. I regret what I said,” Mayor Bath-Haddon said at the time.
“I will continue to make mistakes, as we all will. We are only people. There is not one of us sitting here that has not made a comment that could be perceived in bad taste. From my learned mistakes, I will ask you as council to please consider your words very carefully moving forward and learn from my error.”
In her formal response filed as part of the investigation, Miller said that apology was “inadequate.”
“She (Miller) notes that the apology was unspecific and never identified the offensive language used. She feels that an apology should be made in a public council meeting, and also communicated in writing to local Indigenous communities and the local news media and on the Mayor’s Facebook page,” the report from Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno reads.
Though the report notes that Mayor Bath-Hadden is “remorseful” and has taken “ownership” of the error, Giorno has recommended that council provide her with an opportunity for making and communicating a sincere apology for using the“offensive” and “discriminatory” expression.
“The opportunity might include (virtual) attendance by representatives of Indigenous peoples,” the report reads.
He also called for the municipality to institute formal training for council members on issues pertaining to Indigenous peoples.
No action was taken on a second part of the complaint, which dealt with a photo of Mayor Bath-Hadden and Regional Chair John Henry at the Beaverton Lions Winter Carnival.
The photo, shared by the Lions on social media, depicts a group of politicians in attendance, with Mayor Bath-Hadden’s arm around Chair Henry.
While Miller argued that the photo constituted harassment – and asserted that Mayor Bath-Hadden was sitting on Chair Henry’s lap – Giorno noted the allegation was based entirely on her interpretation of a still photograph.
“The only complaint filed in relation to this photograph is that of Ms. Miller. Nobody complained who was actually present when the photo was taken,” the report reads.
The investigation cost roughly $5,000 to complete and the report is on the agenda for Monday’s (Oct. 26) council meeting.