Vander Doelen Given Two Months to Complete Integrity Commissioner Recommendations

AM800-NEWS-Essex-Council-May-17-2021

Essex council has given its support to a number of recommendations made by the town's integrity commissioner following a series of tweets by councillor Chris Vander Doelen related to COVID-19.

The tweets calling the virus the "Chinese flu" and stating COVID stood for "Chinese Origins Virus" caused a stir among residents with many finding them offensive and racist.

On Monday night, Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze presented his findings recommending Vander Doelen remove the tweets, issue a formal apology and take part in diversity training.

Swayze says he's never received so many complaints about one issue.

"I received more complaints than ever in my 13 years since I've been an integrity commissioner, 80 at least. In this report, I'm not calling him a racist, but he is an elected official and should be a leader in his community."

He says the tweets were hurtful to the Chinese-Canadian community.

"Anyone who reads a newspaper or watches TV knows of the hate crimes that have been experienced in the U.S. and in Canada. I cannot accept that he did not know the impact on the Chinese-Canadian community of his tweets."

Swayze says he found a number of code of conduct violations.

"For some reason councillor Vander Doelen has refused to remove one of the tweets and that refusal by him is not acceptable to me. The code of conduct prohibits speaking in a manner which is discriminatory based on a person's race or place of origin."

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A tweet from Essex Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen posted on Friday April 9, 2021 (Photo via Twitter/@winstarvander)

Vander Doelen fired back following Swayze's presentation stating his comments and views on social media should have no impact on town business calling the investigation a waste of taxpayer money.

He believes the attacks are politically motivated.

"It is legal to utter the words Chinese Flu. Some Chinese doctors in Canada even publicly call it that. The only reason we're sitting here discussing this tweet is that a group of protestors, activists and a rag-tag cancel culture army from outside Essex are trying to take down an effective, local Conservative voice."

Vander Doelen says using a term like "Chinese Flu" is nothing new.

"For two centuries we have spoken in English about pandemics in terms of where they started. German measles was never an insult against Germans. The same with Hong Kong flu and a dozen others. We should apply the same judgement to these weirdos who are trying to sabotage society by hijacking the language and turning it to their political purposes."

He says it all comes down to free speech.

"Mr. Swayze has no authority over my political views or my use of language. No one does over anyone in Canada. That's called freedom. Don't give me that guff about politicians being held to a higher standard than others in a country whose Prime Minister is known to have worn black face multiple times and still sits in parliament. You're claiming higher standards for politicians? You've got to be kidding."

Vander Doelen adds he's received more than 100 letters of support from local residents stating he has done nothing wrong and there's no need to apologize.

The Ward 3 councillor has until July 19 to complete the three recommendations laid out by the integrity commissioner — if he fails to follow through, he'll be docked 60 days pay.