Brampton Councillor’s Racially Insensitive Remarks Violate Code of Conduct

After a long-standing Brampton councillor appeared to have made racially insensitive remarks to a resident and on a newscast in summer 2017, said councillor is facing the consequences of his alleged actions.

Brampton city and regional councillor John Sprovieri is found to have violated the City’s Code of Conduct in two emails and in a July 5 CityNews newscast in 2017, according to a report from Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno on Wednesday February 21.

At the end of June 2017, Sprovieri responded to a constituent’s email about the City’s hiring practices - inquiring about how a city with up to two-thirds of a visible minority population, still has “white people” running things - with the subject line “Why are WHITE PEOPLE still planning Brampton’s future?”

The initial email was sent not only to Sprovieri but to Mayor Linda Jeffrey, several other city councillors, specific members of local media, local business leaders or members of citizens groups, and at least one Member of Parliament.

Here’s a look at how Sprovieri chose to respond:

The constituent responded with a lengthy email on the atrocities committed by “white people” over the course of history, such as the “First Crusade, slavery, the racism of John A. Macdonald, and the U.S. decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan,” according to Giorno’s report.

Sprovieri responded with:

Thank you for the history lesson. As you have noted, humans of all races have skeletons in their closets, some bigger and some smaller. As you are well aware, there was a great destruction of humankind about 12,000 years ago caused by the Big Flood. The Jewish Bible tells us that God caused the Flood to happen to cleanse the earth of Human corruption.

As you are also aware, the Human race may be headed that way again with Global Warming.

Just to bring you back to reality, the discussion is about today and how Canada was developed by the white folks of French and British background. People of all races have come to this land and are able to live together in peace and harmony, because of the system that those folks developed. The reason why we are all hear is because Canada is Number 1. Happy Canada Day to everyone.

These two emails, alongside a CityNews interview where Sprovieri spoke about the emails saying “Was it a poor choice of words? I don't believe so. Maybe it doesn't sound good but, really, I don't see how it's incorrect. It may be improper, possibly, but it's not incorrect,” and “I'm not insensitive to people. I think I am very sensitive to my constituents, especially, 60 per cent of my constituents are South Asian and probably, only, I'd say maybe 20 per cent are actually white people,” sparked an allegation of misconduct from Peel District School Board Trustee Harkirat Singh, which prompted the investigation.

Singh called Sprovieri’s comments into question in the official allegation, saying that “This is not the first time Councillor Sprovieri has made insensitive statements. In 2014, Councillor Sprovieri was also found to have forwarded "Jewish" jokes.”

In wake of this fiasco, Councillor Martin Medeiros put forth a motion at council on Wednesday for all councillors to receive diversity training, which passed unanimously. According to Mayor Linda Jeffrey, the training will be done prior to elections in October.

Jeffrey did respond to the email chain last year, also calling for diversity training for Sprovieri:

“I believe the original intent of the correspondence was to complain about hiring practices at the City of Brampton but it has become clear that the correspondence has now deteriorated into a disrespectful, crude and insensitive tirade about ethnicity,” said Jeffrey.

Sprovieri did issue an apology back in August 2017, which was acknowledged in the report, but at this point, his current sanction for violating the Code of Conduct is essentially a tap on the wrist.

This all comes at an interesting time - Sprovieri actually isn’t running for council in October. The councillor, who has been in office since 1988, recently announced his intentions to retire from council in 2018, after his council colleague Gurpreet Dhillon said he was running to take Sprovieri’s place.

Giorno’s entire report is available here.

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