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LETTER: Student deserves public apology after 'racist' incident

Letter writer is also calling on mayor and council to condemn 'this incident specifically, and racism more generally'

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor. This letter is in response to a story published Thursday about a Georgian College student's encounter with a neighbour in west Orillia. Send your letters to [email protected]
It’s safe to say I was horrified upon viewing the video accompanying your article — so much so that I am moved to express my outrage publicly. 

First to the victims, Kriya Patel and her friend, I am deeply sorry that you had to experience the racially charged language you did, and also the belligerent and threatening posturing of the man who confronted you at your car window. This “gentleman” does not represent my Orillia or my Canada.

If you haven’t watched the video, you really should. It takes place right here in Orillia, at night, where a shirtless (as evidenced by his belly) man holding a beer and an “alleged racist” (as evidenced by just about everything else) stands at a car window and berates the two occupants.  

He attempts to enforce a municipal parking bylaw by saying things like, “You see that sign? Can you f*#king read English?” and “this is Canadian property, Canada says you cannot park here.” 

Notwithstanding the fact that there isn’t a single word of English on the “no-parking” sign, or the fact that the occupants are in a stopped running vehicle at the time, and have not exited, and thus have not parked. For a brief, surreal moment, it feels like the Deep South, not the Sunshine City.

I appreciate that the victims have shared this video as a way to shine a light on the subtle and not-so-subtle racism and discrimination that non-white Orillians continue to experience in this city. 

The OPP visited this “gentleman” but declined to press charges. Why? Admittedly, I did get a “B” in criminal law, but doesn’t s. 175(1)(a)(i-iii)  of the Criminal Code apply?

“Everyone who not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place by fighting, screaming, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language, by being drunk, or by impeding or molesting other persons…is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.”

I feel like buddy hit a perfect trifecta in his straight to video performance. 

Furthermore, why has the “gentleman’s” face been blurred in the video? Is he not to be held accountable for his words and actions?  Why have comments on the article been disabled? Are we not to be permitted to have a conversation on racism here in Orillia? So many questions, so few answers. 

The bottom line is, this was a traumatizing incident that will no doubt vicariously affect other visible minorities living in Orillia. 

Even as a middle-age white man who enjoys a fair bit of privilege and safety in navigating the world, still I find myself re-watching the video in an effort to identify the location so I can steer clear of this “militarized” no-parking zone.

I literally wince when I think of Kriya Patel having to go home every day to the fear and memory of this incident. 

Hence, I call on our Mayor, Steve Clarke, and City Council to issue a statement in strong condemnation of this incident specifically, and racism more generally. They may even wish to go a step further and, if safe to do so, symbolically permit parking in the spot where the incident occurred for all well-intentioned Orillians opposed to racism and xenophobia.   

Finally, I suggest that the perpetrator make a public apology for his imprudent language and actions, along with making a commitment to attend anti-racism/anti-oppression training as a first step to making amends for what he has done.

Mark Riczu