Mayor’s tweet sparks criticism

Mark Gerretsen responds to racial hate crime, calls for “bigger picture” approach

Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen is condemning the actions of the four Kingstonians alleged to have assaulted six Queen’s students last week, despite some contention regarding his word choice.

The six Queen’s students, who were all male and who identified as Muslim, were assaulted near Patrick and Fraser Streets as they made their way home from Empire Theatres on Oct. 6, allegedly because of the students’ racial backgrounds.

Three of the suspects, which are known to police, have since been arrested and Kingston police are currently looking for the fourth.

Gerretsen, who took the issue to Twitter, tweeted that he “sometimes [feels] like discussing those incidents only helps to promote them.” The tweet garnered criticism by Queen’s students Isabelle Duchaine and Colin Zarzour, who argued the racist attack should spark a dialogue within the city.

“When you have a hate crime occurring in a community, a racially or ethnically or religiously-based attack in a city people call their home, it’s the duty for elected officials and leaders for all kinds of communities to step out and say that’s not acceptable,” Duchaine told the Journal.

“If you continue to remain silent about the issue you are in a way complicitly condoning it ,saying it doesn’t bother us in this community,” Duchaine, ArtSci ’13, said.

Gerretsen later said that he didn’t intend for the tweet to be interpreted as dismissive.

“I feel as though if we focus on those particular incidents all we end up doing is promoting the fact that these things happen,” Gerretsen said.

“I’m more interested in focusing on the bigger picture plan as to how we control this kind of behaviour and prevent it from happening as opposed to just talking about individual specific incidents.”

However, Gerretsen said the hate crime has tarnished the city’s reputation in promoting diversity and tolerance, adding that he has faith in the City’s immigration strategy to help foster a better community through the education.

“A message to be sent to those that were victimized … is that the vast majority support diversity and support the differences that we share,” he said.

One of the victims of the assault, who chose to remain anonymous, said the City should look to actively tackle racism in Kingston.

“I think it’s just their perspective, the people who are living there,” he said. “I don’t know if they have enough awareness and knowledge … they’re narrow-minded in terms of feeling, they [also] have their own problems and then they try to reflect that on to other communities.

“We should just be ready in terms of how to [deal] with it, especially the Muslim community as well, just because coincidentally everyone was a Muslim in that group.”

Despite this, he blames a lack of awareness and knowledge for the attack, he said, rather than the town or the surrounding community. “This was a secluded incident and I personally don’t generalize at all,” he said, adding he feels positive about how Kingston police have handled the case so far.

“I think there is always someone to watch your back.”

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