Amaranth Dufferin News Municipal Politics

Commissioner Report on Currie’s Pride Remarks Released

Integrity Commissioner Releases Report on Mayor Currie's Pride Comments

It turns out that Amaranth’s integrity commissioner did investigate Mayor Bob Currie’s remarks on the pride flag last year. 

A report submitted to the Township of Amaranth by Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno, dated May 31, 2021, recounted the circumstances stemming from the mayor’s response to Council being asked to raise the pride flag. The document spelled out an investigation originating from fourteen individual complaints against Currie concerning statements deemed to be ‘homophobic.’ The purpose of the inquiry was to determine if the integrity commissioner was required to take any action.

The complaints made against Amaranth’s mayor alleged that he breached the code of conduct for council members during the June 17 meeting when he made his declarations on the pride flag. Three of the fourteen complainants include issues with statements Currie made to the media in their claims. The specific breaches include the following.

Members of Council shall not:

  • shall not use the influence of office for other than the exercise of official duties
  • encourage public respect for the township
  • avoid conduct during meetings that offends or reflects intolerance toward any group or individual
  • harassment of any member of the public
  • bullying any member of the public

Out of the fourteen complaints made to the commissioner, Giorno notes only four of those making claims reside in Amaranth. Eight are from other parts of Dufferin County, with the remaining two living elsewhere in Ontario. The commissioner also mentions that five, all outside Amaranth, seemed to have been ‘copied from a single source.’ Furthermore, Giorno shares that he received emails from five Amaranth residents who supported Currie’s comments. 

The report mentions the petition that garnered just below 20,000 signatures calling for the Giorno to remove Currie as mayor. Several of the complainants also asked for this in their submissions to the commissioner. The integrity commissioner explains how this is not a power the role possesses. The only position that Currie can be removed from was the one he held as Dufferin County’s chair of the Infrastructure and Environmental Services Committee. The County Council, led by Warden Darren White, had already done this when it passed a motion to strip Currie of that authority. 

It is specified in the document that Currie states his response to complaints is in words voiced at County and Township council meetings. Giorno describes how Currie apologized at County Council and retracted the comments on the pride flag at the township council. The commissioner then delineates the votes Currie has made on the Amaranth council regarding flying the pride flag for June 2021, the flag protocol and proclamation policy, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Advisory Committee.

According to the report, several complainants were unsatisfied with Mayor Currie’s apologies, questioning his sincerity. They expressly point to a portion of his apology, where he said, “sorry that my words caused offence to some people.” Complainants assert that this does not acknowledge the actual transgression. Some also affirmed that the apology should be communicated in print and broadcast media “to make amends in the global community” to the same degree that Mayor Bob Currie “tarnished the good name of Amaranth.” 

Conclusions from the report include Giorno finding that Currie has acknowledged his comments from the June 17 council meeting and subsequent news interviews did hurt people and came across as hateful. Moreover, the document states that Currie apologized, expressed ‘sorrow and regret,’ and sought to retract his comments. It also mentions how the mayor has taken six hours of diversity, equality, and inclusivity training through the county council.

Giorno also resolved that the decision not to fly the pride flag resulted from the ‘collective inactive of the entire council prior to and at the June 17 meeting.’ The integrity commissioner notes Dufferin News coverage of the events that immediately followed Currie’s pride flag remarks, where council voted 5-0 in support of a drive-thru Ribfest. Giorno states that Council could have decided on June 17 to fly the Pride flag, ‘if only it had given to flag-raising the same support as Council Members exhibited for Drive-Thru Ribfest.’ He mentions that some complainants believe Currie’s ‘comments are why the Pride flag was not raised in 2020.’ Guy Giorno assigns this to ‘pervasive media coverage incorrectly attributing the flag decision to Mayor Currie.’ 

The integrity commissioner’s report ends by providing three recommendations for Amaranth’s Council. The first is to have minutes for the Township’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Advisory Committee added to the regular council agenda. Giorno says this would recognize the Council’s ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The second suggestion provided in Giorno’s report is for Council to consider having all its Council Members go through diversity, equality, and inclusivity training. The commissioner records that only Mayor Bob Currie and Deputy Mayor Chris Gerrits having received this, obtaining it through the county council. 

The final recommendation is for Amaranth’s Council to consider revising its Code of Conduct to only allow residents of the township, or those with a demonstrable interest in the subject matter of the complaint, to submit claims to the integrity commissioner. In his report, Giorno iterates how most of the complaints came from those not of Amaranth, but the municipality’s taxpayers bear the costs of the inquiries. The commissioner explains how Amaranth, with less than 0.03% of Ontario’s population, may be required to pay for complaints from the remaining 99.97%. Even if complaints were just limited to those living in Dufferin, Giorno’s math shows Amaranth’s residents making up only 6.65% of the county’s total population. 

Some may be wondering why this report is coming out almost a year after Currie made the initial ‘problematic’ remarks. The Integrity Commissioner discusses how he has the discretion to lengthen time frames and deadlines associated with complaints and investigations. Giorno pronounces three reasons for choosing to extend:

  1. Allow the three-month complaint period to expire.
  2. Handle delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Accommodate challenges related to communication with one of the parties to the inquiry. 

Amaranth’s Council may discuss Giorno’s report at its next meeting, where they are expected to receive the document, on June 2, 2021.

The pride flag and the multicultural flags are scheduled to be raised at the Amaranth municipal office today at 5 pm. Both flags will remain up for the entire month of June. They will fly at half-mast until June 7 to honour the 215 lives taken at a former ‘residential school’ in Kamloops, British Columbia. Those attending the event are asked to remain in their vehicles to adhere to current restrictions related to the pandemic.

Full Disclosure: Josh MacEwen, the editor of Dufferin News, is a member of Amaranth’s Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Community Advisory Committee.

References – Commissioner Report on Currie’s Pride Remarks Released

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