Arnprior mayor sends letter to town's residents, denying systemic racism within the community
ARNPRIOR -- Many residents in Arnprior, Ont. were shocked this week when they found a letter in their mailbox titled "My Opinion" from Mayor Walter Stack.
The four page letter addressed "To all the residents of Arnprior" states Stack’s opinion that he does "not believe Racism is systemic in Arnprior." The letter was released after ongoing claims from residents that racism is, in fact, systemic in the town west of Ottawa
"I had to read it a couple of times to really believe what I was seeing," says Candice Nault, a resident in the town and mother of two Black sons.
"We have," answered Nault, when asked if her family has experienced racism in Arnprior. "I mean it’s not stories that he’s comfortable talking about at this age. But we’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it, he’s experienced it, my children have, and it’s there."
In the letter, Stack writes, "Do I believe there are racist attitudes resulting in individual acts with our community, I am sorry to have to say absolutely."
However, where the mayor finds contention is in the word "systemic", citing a dictionary definition and a definition submitted by two constituents.
"His opinion is wrong,” says Kerry-Lee Williams, an active member of Arnprior’s BIPOC community. "He cannot be a leader for all by disregarding some."
"The opinions reflected by the letter showed blatant disrespect or disregard to racialized people and their contribution to the town of Arnprior," says Williams, who recounts every day events in which she has experienced racism in Arnprior.
"I’ve had people drive by and say really nasty choice words to me from their cars, walking into certain stores, just how the retailers operate towards me."
On the final page of the letter, Mayor Stack writes, “We should make our decisions and take our actions based on our own thoughts and beliefs for the betterment of the whole Community. Not follow the Pied Piper.”
Town Councillor Lisa McGee was mentioned by name in the letter, and asked by the mayor to bring forward evidence of racism in the community.
"We’ve already heard from members of the BIPOC community who have provided their own evidence," says McGee. "And that’s the evidence we need to be listening to."
McGee says the town council had no idea the letter was coming and says no taxpayer dollars were spend on it. “I was certainly surprised. It’s an unconventional method to communicate with residents and the message itself was a little unconventional.”
Resident Sophie Smith-Dore was also named in the letter. She says after reading it she filed a complaint with the town regarding the code of conduct, citing the mayor’s lack of professionalism and his personal behaviour. She says she has also contacted the Ontario Ombudsman about the matter.
"In my opinion, he is gravely in violation of these things," says Smith-Dore. "And I think it is our responsibilities as his constituents to call upon him to serve us better. He seems to represent a very small percentage of the community that also believes that because they don’t see racism it doesn’t exist."
Stack declined a request for comment from CTV News Ottawa, saying everything he had to say on the topic was in the letter.
"Right now it’s being denied, and right now the first step is to acknowledge," says Williams. "It is time for him to step down as mayor if he cannot be for all, and he is continuing to be for some."
“Should he stay in his role?” questions Nault. “If he continues to do the things he’s doing, absolutely not. If he is willing to change and grow, maybe. But we haven’t seen it.”