by Edith Cody-Rice

Canadians frequently feel a little smug watching the struggle for equality of people of colour south of the border. We should realize, however, that racism is alive and well in this country, including in Mississippi Mills.

Almonte’s motto is the “Friendly Town,” but it has not been very friendly to Denise Doiley-Lavictoire, an Almonte resident who moved here three years ago. Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire is the black mother of four children, one of whom still lives with her. She is an employee of Orchardview Retirement Community.

Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire must pass a certain house on her way to her night shift work and to circulate in the community. The tenants of the property regularly shout the N-word at her, call her “trash”  and make other racial slurs as she passes. They also yell at some of her white friends that they are N…..-lovers. A private footpath that crosses that property is freely used by many people in the community, but she and her son have repeatedly been verbally attacked if they try to use it. Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire is particularly worried about her 14-year-old son and has forbidden him to try to cross the community path as she is afraid of what might happen to him if the tenants catch him.

A female tenant has approached Ms. Doily-Lavictoire in a threatening way, waving her hands in front of Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire but without touching her declaring, “I know where you work and if you touch me, I’ll get you fired.” In addition to harassing her from their property, the tenants of the house have stalked her in their car, shouting insults in a clear intimidation tactic, as she walks to work. Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire feels threatened and apprehensive. She now either gets a ride to work or has someone walk with her.

Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire has complained twice to the Ontario Provincial Police and has been told that as there has been no physical assault there is nothing that they can do. She also approached the landlord of the tenants who are harassing her, whom, she said, told her he does not want to get involved and threw her off his premises. The Millstone contacted the landlord, who refused to confirm or deny that she had been to see him, expressed no concern and whose only reaction other than “no comment” was to request that his name not appear in this article. The Millstone contacted the OPP, but the call was not returned.

Ms. Doiley-Lavictoire feels vulnerable and helpless to control this situation and she feels that no help is available in this “Friendly Town”.

This is hardly the image that our town wants to present to the world, yet, if we are to combat racism, we need to face this problem. Almonte should be the “Friendly Town” to everyone who chooses to settle here, not just to the privileged white majority.