A month ago, I made a statement denouncing racism, discrimination and hate. I also committed to and encouraged others to learn and to listen. The spotlight that has been focused on racial injustice across the globe is illuminating a darkness in our own community, revealing to some for the first time the need to take positive action and ensure respect for all.

Many residents were shocked to learn that Denise Doiley-LaVictoire and her family have regularly experienced racism and victimization in Mississippi Mills. As Mayor, I have offered my support to Ms. Doiley-LaVictoire and her family and I have encouraged her to reach out to me when she is ready.

I have received many messages from outraged citizens who, in our predominately white community, have never felt unsafe or been subjected to discrimination due to skin colour.  Whether we are witness to it or not, bigotry is alive and well in both small towns and big cities across Canada. Many residents were duly appalled to realize that Mississippi Mills is no exception.

Yesterday I spoke with Inspector Padiachi, Interim Detachment Commander for the Lanark OPP, who is reviewing Ms. Doiley-LaVictoire’s calls.  As a respected senior leader with the OPP, I trust Inspector Padiachi to review the situation in a fair and appropriate manner.  A few weeks ago, Inspector Padiachi released a powerful statement regarding ongoing protests and racial injustice.  It can be read here.

Inspector Padiachi also explained to me that sometimes there is a gap between what is morally wrong and criminally wrong.  Sometimes actions that are inappropriate or even hateful can’t be addressed through police enforcement.  However, the police do play a role outside of law enforcement through their mandate to keep the peace and ensure community safety.

Inspector Padiachi and I are continuing our discussions and as leaders will play our part to combat racism and encourage positive change in Mississippi Mills alongside members of the community. It will take everyone’s involvement and commitment to transform long-standing views. Societal problems like racism need a community response where we all play a role and bear responsibility: parents, family, friends, neighbours, teachers, employers, colleagues, community leaders, political leaders, and law enforcement all working together.

Yesterday’s Millstone article has motivated many residents to step forward, to learn, to become allies and commit to change.  We have seen a similar response from the community through Mississippi Mills All My Relations who is committed to rebuilding relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and also through Pride in Mississippi Mills who has given voice to the local 2SLGBTQ+ community. Council and I have wholeheartedly supported both these community initiatives which stand up for marginalized people and we will also stand firmly with our community in rejecting racism.

The Municipality of Mississippi Mills has zero tolerance for racism and discrimination.  We do not tolerate aggressive or violent retribution.  We encourage listening, learning and respect for all. The Municipality sets policies that dictate accepted behaviour for members of Council, for Municipal employees and for users in all our facilities. In a commitment towards education, our library has increased budgets spent on anti-racism, Indigenous history, 2SLGBTQ+ materials, and the collection of minority and Indigenous authors is growing. Our Municipal Daycare’s materials and topics are becoming more inclusive in content and racially diverse. In the Lanark County Community Plan for Safety and Well-Being, addressing stigma, discrimination, racism and bullying is an identified action recognizing the need for greater cultural awareness in our relatively homogenous community. Is there more to do?  Yes.  Always yes.

We must remember, Ms. Doiley-LaVictoire’s experience is not an isolated one. The majority in our community cannot begin to understand the personal impact of racism. But we can identify it. We can call it out. We can learn. We can promote awareness. We can be allies.  We all have a role to play in overcoming racism and intolerance in our community.  Everyone is welcome in Mississippi Mills. Everyone deserves to feel safe.

We all belong.

Christa Lowry
Mayor of Mississippi Mills