Pickering councillor defends comparing herself to a ‘modern-day slave’ again

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Published October 12, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Pickering Councillor Lisa Robinson again defended her "wildly offensive" comment comparing herself to a "Modern-day slave" via Robinson's Youtube.

Pickering Councillor Lisa Robinson has once again doubled down on her comments comparing herself to a “modern-day slave” after her pay was docked for bullying her neighbours. The comparison has been criticized as “wildly offensive” by Mayor Kevin Ashe and the city’s Anti-Black Racism Taskforce.

This long saga began when Robinson wanted to install a shipping container in her yard to store Halloween decorations she uses in an annual event. Some of her neighbours took exception to this plan and came out to a public meeting to speak against the installation.

Robinson’s variance request was denied as a result and she took to Facebook to complain. She directly named each neighbour who had come forward and publically blamed them for the cancellation of her event.

Following an integrity commission investigation, Robinson was found to have used her position to bully her neighbours. “It must be recognized as a bully tactic (and) it shows a flagrant disregard for the well-being of others,” the commissioner found.

Due to this report, city council voted to reprimand Robinson by docking her pay for a month. After this decision, Robinson again took to Facebook to complain and wrote“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,” since she was now working without pay.

The comparison drew quick condemnation from the local Black community and Robinson’s fellow council members. Ash was the first to publically condemn her comments as “wildly offensive and deeply hurtful.”

“Referencing the system of slavery as a point of comparison carries a violent undertone,” he wrote in a statement, “Slavery, a dark chapter in 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.”

“It is crucial that we treat each other with respect, sensitivity, and an understanding of the historical context that informs our language choices,” he continued, “Clearly, Councillor Robinson has failed in this regard.” He concluded that Robinson’s docked pay was a direct consequence of her own inappropriate behaviour and urged her to take responsibility for her actions. Ashe apologized on behalf of the city.

Robinson did not follow Ashe’s advice. She’s since doubled down on her comments saying they were meant to “shed light on the issue of modern-day slavery,” not to compare it to the historical practice.

“I would like to emphasize that modern-day slaves often endure gruelling working hours, hazardous conditions, and receive meagre or nonexistent wages for their efforts,” she said, “As an individual who is now working for the government without compensation for the next 30 days, I am facing significant challenges.”

Next the Pickering Anti-Black Racism Taskforce (PABRT) said they were “horrified and deeply concerned,” over Robinson’s “heinous” comment. “It demonstrates a blatant disregard for the weight and impact of her words as well as how it inflicts harm to others,” they said, “Robinson’s comment diminishes a dark, traumatic chapter in history that continues to affect Black people in Canada and worldwide profoundly.”

“Individuals who are not subjected to forced labour, human trafficking, or similar forms of extreme exploitation should avoid likening their circumstances to slavery,” they continued, “Modern slavery involves human trafficking, forced labour, and other heinous crimes that result in severe human rights violations.” They pushed for another reprimand and training for Robinson.

This further criticism led Robinson to double down once more saying she wanted to “express my deep disappointment and concern” with the PABRT statement. She said her comparison “has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. It is based on the Modern Day Slavery Act 2023, which defines a modern day slave as someone, regardless of their racial background, who works for little or no compensation.”

She said despite the attention her comments have received neith Ashe or the PABRT reach out to discuss their concerns with her directly. “I firmly believe that it is essential to acknowledge and respect the diverse experiences of individuals from different racial backgrounds. Slavery has left an indelible mark on humanity, affecting countless lives across various races, and it is our collective responsibility to address and rectify this issue.”

In their previous statement the PABRT said Robinson’s defences of her comments shows a “complete lack of awareness and sensitivity” they expect from city councillors and reflects, “the distinct privilege of an individual who, through their own misconduct was punished financially, and further belittles the tragedies endured by kidnapped Africans who were enslaved.”

Additionally, the was shocked at Robinson’s “adamant lack of remorse” in her “irrational” statement in defence of her comment as a “clear indication of her entitled mindset.”

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