Monthly Archives: December 2015

St. Catharines Mayor Sendzik Responds to Petrowski’s Comments

I reached out to ask the Mayor’s office for comment regarding Councillor Petrowski’s views on refugees and Muslims from last week. Some see silence on this issue as condoning Petrowski’s views. St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle came out with a strong rebuke of Petrowski today.

As Mayor, not only does Sendzik represent the same constituents as Petrowski, he is also a colleague of Petrowski’s on Regional Council.

Here is how the Mayor’s Office responded:

Hi Greg,

Thanks for reaching out and the opportunity to respond.  I hope Mayor Sendzik’s position is clear as he has been vocal and active in supporting our community’s response to welcome Syrian families since earlier this fall when the Mayor’s Office and Folk Arts Centre co-hosted the first community meeting to organize the response to the refugee crisis. The Mayor’s Office is fully engaged in the Niagara Refugee Assistance Committee which includes a number of community agencies, volunteers, faith groups and the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, working together to organize and coordinate our collective response to support refugees when they arrive in the new year.

Mayor Sendzik does not support or endorse the views expressed by Mr. Petrowski. Here’s a short statement he provided to the Standard today.

“Negative and divisive comments from public figures can impact a city’s reputation and I’m disappointed by Andy Petrowski’s public remarks. These types of incidents distract from the good work that so many people are doing to welcome Syrian refugees.

St. Catharines is an open, inclusive and welcoming community. We have a strong history of welcoming newcomers. In fact, my own family came to St. Catharines from Poland in the 1920s. The community’s interest and support in welcoming Syrian families has been overwhelmingly positive. From our first meeting at the Folk Arts Centre in September to now, many people are coming forward and offering to help with donations, clothing, housing and support.

These comments are not reflective of the city or the majority of the people that I see and work with every day. We will continue to work together to be a positive, warm and welcoming voice.” – Mayor Walter Sendzik

Sendzik did vote for Petrowski to be on the Police Board in January, but it is good to see him stepping up to condemn these comments.

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Petrowski Must Be Removed from Police Board

I was listening to CKTB radio the other day. Tom McConnell dedicated a large portion of his show to discussing Donald Trump’s recent comments about banning Muslims from entering the United States. The merits of giving this “idea” airtime, let alone allowing people to call in to express support, are debatable. However, it is news and McConnell’s show covers news. Typically I would have turned off the program, but radio at 11 a.m. isn’t a cornucopia of great options. Luckily, I did not. Once I heard that “Andy” was calling in, I knew it was time to hit record.

Sure enough, Niagara Region Councillor Andy Petrowski took the opportunity to put his foot in his mouth. Which, sadly, is all he seems to excel at as a political representative. You can hear my recording of his call here: https://soundcloud.com/regiller/andy-petrowski-on-cktb-dec-9-15

It is important to note that Petrowski phoned in on his own accord to share his thoughts. Spouting the usual ignorant talking points he gets from far right Americans such as Trump and Breitbart, Councillor Petrowski heaped further embarrassment onto himself. He displayed his tenuous grasp of logic by comparing banning Muslims from America to destroying ISIS. He called for Barack Obama to be banned from Canada, for some reason. He stated that since Canada can’t know if even one of the 10,000 Syrian refugees it is admitting will commit a terrorist act, it is irresponsible to let any in (the logic tree on this claim, in particular, is quite brilliant. Since we can’t know anyone won’t do anything, maybe everyone in the world should be confined to their own individual jail cell just to be safe.)

Grant Lafleche wrote an excellent column about why Petrowski is wrong on this issue, which includes the following passage:

Petrowski’s hyperbole paints all refugees as potential terrorist threats. Such an attitude from a political leader is inaccurate, unhelpful and unfair.

For me, the issue isn’t that Andy embarrasses himself, that’s his decision. The issue isn’t that he is just a cranky old white guy and some cranky old white guys have a tendency to spout hateful nonsense. The issue isn’t even that he’s emblematic of a Regional Council that is 87% male and 100% white, with the majority over the age of 50. As a member of Regional Council, Petrowski has marginalized himself and this is reflected by his inability to accomplish much of anything in his five years on Council. The issue isn’t even that he’s wrong, as he is.

The issue is that Petrowski is the Vice-Chair of the Police Services Board. At a time when the relationship between police and minority groups in North America is “delicate”, having the Vice-Chair of the Board spouting Islamaphobic rhetoric is as dangerous as it is embarrassing. It should be noted that only five months ago Chief McGuire was forced by a different brand of Petrowski ignorance to assure the public that police serve the community in an unbiased manner. Now Petrowski’s at it again.

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That Petrowski gets his worldview from right-wing nuts in the States is not news. He has readily displayed this for a long time. So how was he allowed into a position of influence on the Police Board?

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Well, just like our problematic way of choosing our Regional Chair, he was chosen for the position by his fellow Regional Councillors. You can see how this system could result in back-room deals. For example: “I’ll scratch your back (vote for you for Regional Chair), you scratch mine (help me get elected to the police board.)”

To be fair, these backroom deals are nothing new. But never have they resulted in less competent politicians filling such prominent positions in Niagara. One look at the disastrous year both Regional Council and the Police Board have had will confirm that.

The Police Services Board is the civilian governing body of the Niagara Regional Police Service. It sets the police budget and works with the Chief on policing priorities.

The Region has three representatives on the Board; the Regional Chair and two Councillors, who are selected by vote by the other Regional Councillors. Because Chair Caslin decided to defer his position on the Board, three Councillors were required. Board membership, in addition to its duties and responsibilities, comes with an additional salary of around $7,000 (about 25% of the base Regional Councillor salary.)

Six Councillors put their names forward for election to the Board; Barrick, Bentley, Burroughs, D’Angela, Gale and Petrowski. Barrick, Gale and Petrowski all received a majority of votes on the first ballot. Here’s how the voting went

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It would be fair to say that Barrick, Gale and Petrowski are all members of what’s been called the “conservative cabal” that includes our current Regional Chair and controls the balance of Regional Council decisions. Their other merits for selection to the important position of Police Board member are opaque.

Barrick is also chair of the Region’s budget committee and a large portion of the budget goes to the police, so perhaps that’s a good reason for inclusion. Gale was briefly a cop at one point in his life. Petrowski has come into conflict with the NRPS in the past.

Whatever the reason or scheme for having these three selected to the Board, they all became subject to its Code of Conduct upon joining. It is safe to say that Petrowski’s infamous homophobic comments and his recent Islamaphobic rhetoric cause him to be in violation of that Code.

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7. Board members shall discharge their duties loyally, faithfully, impartially and according to the Act, any other Act and any regulation, rule or by-law, as provided in their oath or affirmation of office

8. Board members shall uphold the letter and spirit of the Code of Conduct set out in this regulation and shall discharge their duties in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the abilities and integrity of the board.

9. Board members shall discharge their duties in a manner that respects the dignity of individuals and in accordance with the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada).

13. Board members shall refrain from engaging in conduct that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the board or the police force.

If the board determines that a board member has breached the Code of Conduct set out in this Regulation, the board shall record that determination in its minutes and may, (a) require the member to appear before the board and be reprimanded; (b) request that the Ministry of the Solicitor General conduct an investigation into the member’s conduct; or (c) request that the Commission conduct an investigation into the member’s conduct under Section 25 of the Act.

Section 25 of the Police Services Act states (emphasis mine):

Penalties, member of board

(5) If the Commission concludes, after a hearing, that a member of a board is guilty of misconduct or is not performing or is incapable of performing the duties of his or her position in a satisfactory manner, it may remove or suspend the member.  R.S.O. 1990, c. P.15, s. 25 (5).

The Commission in this case is the Police Services Board.

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This is not like people who say about refugees that we should “help our own vulnerable citizens first” (which is a position I also disagree with.) This is a political representative sowing fear and discord about the entirety of a minority population; members of which he already represents.

It is my opinion that Petrowski can’t be trusted to perform his duties in an unbiased manner. Further, his comments have the potential to negatively impact the relationship between police and the residents they serve.

Petrowski should resign from the police board after yet another compromising opinion of his has been made known. Knowing him, he will not resign.

The responsibility to have him removed, thus, falls to those who irresponsibly worked and voted to have him placed in that position in the first place. I am hopeful they will not abandon their responsibility and rectify their error.