Bread Not Circuses Coalition

Box 139, 365 Roncesvalles Ave.

Toronto, Ontario Canada, M6R 2M8

(416) 410-2267


An Open Letter to Mayor Mel Lastman and members of Toronto City Council

June 21, 2001

Bread Not Circuses Coalition
Box 139, 365 Roncesvalles Ave.
Toronto, Ontario Canada, M6R 2M8
(416) 410-2267

Dear Mayor and Councillors;

We are writing to express our outrage at the racist comments made by Mayor Mel Lastman about travelling to Kenya and his image of himself "in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."

The Mayor's comments are not an isolated gaffe by a man raised in the 1940's. Individuals who are truly anti-racist know that racist jokes are unacceptable and a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Mayor's comments are the most recent addition to of a long string of deceptions, misleading statements and half-truths underpinning the Toronto Olympic bid.

The Mayor has consistently stated that the Toronto Olympic bid is a celebration of Toronto's diversity and multi-culturalism. In fact, the Mayor's comments show us the racist underbelly of Toronto's Olympic bid. The Olympic boosters will say anything to get the bid. The reality is that Toronto's diversity is just mere window dressing to sell Toronto to the world. Toronto's ethno-racial diversity is being used as a mere commodity to boost the bid.

The mayor's comments are not unrelated to this week's other revelation about TO-Bid's misleading promises. Two days ago, the Chief Operating Officer, Bob Richardson announced that taxpayers will be footing at least half the cost of the Bid. The Mayor and TO-Bid 2008 officials have repeatedly stated that the Olympic bid will not cost the taxpayer a penny, but will be covered by funds raised from the private sector. What did the Mayor's trip to Africa cost taxpayers? The Mayor's office paid $35,000 to travel to Sydney. We have yet to see the real price tag for hosting the Games.

Toronto Olympic boosters claim our multi-cultural diversity is our strength. Yet, the reality is that an economic apartheid exists for the majority of people of colour in the city. Over a year ago, the City's own Ornstein report on Ethno-Racial Inequality in the City of Toronto outlined that over 40% of families in most non-white communities live below the poverty line. More than 70% of women and children of colour from some communities live in poverty. Unemployment rates are over 50% for some communities compared to 7% for those of European origin. Ethno-racial communities are under-serviced and under-funded.

The Mayor and City council should get their priorities right. Rather than committing our public resources to the Olympic Games, the Mayor should focus our scarce public resources on providing housing, settlement services, better health care and community recreation to address with the city's economic apartheid.

We urge City Council to recognize that the choices it is making about where to spend public resources has a very direct impact on ethno and racial communities in Toronto. User fees in our community centres, and the threatened closure of school swimming pools, mean that many children from low-income families will go without access to recreational programs.

The people of Toronto deserve more than apology. At a minimum, six concrete actions should be taken. We demand that:

- Mayor Mel Lastman explain his comments to City Council next week and then resign;

- The Mayor repay his travel costs and the City put that money towards anti-racist community programs;

- The Mayor be sent by City Council to anti-racist training (Not only is training a common remedy in Human Rights complaints, it is a requirement of many community groups who received funding from the City to ensure their staff has participated in training or the community group provides the training);

- City Council send a formal apology to all African City and Town Councils for the remarks;

- City Council commit to an Action Plan to End Economic Apartheid including community programs to support housing, settlement services, end user fees, and improve our health and community services;

- City Council ensure ethno-racial and community groups are direct leaders in the plan to end economic apartheid.


Jan Borowy,
on behalf of the Bread Not Circuses Coalition.