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Mayor of Pickering responds to councillor's 'modern-day slave' comments

Councillor Lisa Robinson is seen in a screen grab from a video posted to YouTube on Sept. 26, 2023. Handout Councillor Lisa Robinson is seen in a screen grab from a video posted to YouTube on Sept. 26, 2023. Handout

The mayor of Pickering is speaking out after a member of city council referred to herself as a “modern day slave” in response to her pay being docked for one month due to bullying allegations.

Coun. Lisa Robinson made the remark on her Facebook page on Tuesday, after Pickering’s integrity commissioner ruled that her decision to identify three citizens by name in a another social media post in which she announced that her annual Halloween event for charity would be cancelled amounted to a “bully tactic.”

“Council voted to have me work for free for the next 30 days for a ‘sarcastic remark’ on my personal FB post. I am now a modern-day slave,” Robinson said in the Facebook post.

In May, Robinson made a post on her personal Facebook page announcing the cancellation of her annual Halloween event. In it, she thanked three citizens by name for their “neighbourly kindness.”

However, upon investigation Pickering’s integrity commissioner found the post was made after the Committee of Adjustment denied Robinson’s application to keep a large shipping container in her side yard for the purpose of storing Halloween decorations.

The residents named in Robinson’s Facebook post were those who spoke in opposition to the container during a virtual meeting on the matter.

In a statement issued on Friday, Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe criticized Robinson for her slavery remarks, calling them “wildly offensive and deeply harmful.”

“Referencing the system of slavery as a point of comparison carries a violent undertone,” he said. “Slavery, a dark chapter for our history, brutally denied the humanity of generations of Black communities, subjecting them to unimaginable suffering and injustice. To use such a comparison is fundamentally wrong, and also diminishes the generational trauma caused by slavery.”

Ashe added that members of the Pickering Anti-Black Racism Task Force were “shocked and upset” by Robinson’s remarks, which Ashe says “highlights the gravity of the situation and the damaging impact it has had.”

“Councillor Robinson's suspension of pay is a direct consequence of her own actions and decision-making,” concluded Ashe. “It reflects the necessity of upholding the integrity of our Council and maintaining our ethical standards. We strongly urge her to take responsibility for her actions, refrain from using false and harmful comparisons, and sincerely apologize to the Black community for the hurt and offence she has caused.”

Robinson responded to the statement on Facebook, saying Ashe misconstrued her remarks.

“I sought to shed light on the issue of modern-day slavery, which exists in various forms and affects individuals from all backgrounds,” she said. “As an individual who is now working for the government without compensation for the next 30 days, I am facing significant challenges…I remain committed to advocating for fair compensation, equality and the eradication of modern-day slavery.”

Robinson did appear on Newstalk 1010 on Thursday, where she told host John Moore that comparing her situation to “slavery might not have been the right term.” However, she did not apologize for the remark.

“Honestly right now I feel like I am slave to the government because I am not being paid but I still have to work,” she said. Top Stories

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