LETTER: Nelson councillor should think before speaking

From reader Selina Stevenson-Birk

Re: “City councillor apologizes for offensive word”

My grandfather, Henry Stevenson, was a Nelson alderman and businessman. He was instrumental in bringing an airport to the city and worked tirelessly at the museum. His wife, my grandmother, Audrey Stevenson, worked for the city for a number of years and raised their family there. My other grandmother, Margaret Murphy, was a business owner, very active church member and was recognized as Citizen of the Year. We are a very proud family of Nelsonites. I may not live there anymore, however I will always be a Nelsonite.

My daughter, Payton, is a wonderfully funny, sweet, and kind little six year old. My son, Sawyer, is a loving, silly and very empathetic little three year old. They both love when we bring them to “town” to go to the park, or pool. They love to visit Grampy or one of their many aunties, uncles and cousins. Nelson is one of their favourite places. They are welcomed with open arms and lots of love and affection from friends, family and complete strangers. Both have special needs. Payton has Down syndrome and Sawyer is on the autism spectrum.

I saw a Facebook post by city councillor Keith Page, using language that quite frankly, is disgusting, derogatory, discriminatory and I am furious that a person elected to represent the city I love would speak this way. I understand it was in his words “not meant to offend” but as a mother, I want to cry. It was offensive, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to write down what he said.

We live in a world where our elected officials are held to a higher standard, and they should be. Mr. Page may have thoughts and opinions, as we all do, and we are entitled to them. However, the words we use are impactful. You don’t call friends with obvious ethnic origins names that would be offensive so why is it okay to use words that used to be used to dehumanize people with special needs?

That’s truly what Mr. Page’s words did when I read them: they dehumanized my children and all the other folks with special needs in our community. Did you know that Bigby Place is right next to City Hall? Did you know their sole purpose is to allow people with special needs to come together and learn and be part of the community?

Maybe Mr. Page should visit them and see why so many people are outraged at his lack of compassion. He chose to run for office, to represent his community. He needs to think before he speaks. When you put yourself in the spotlight of local politics, you need to realize that little kids are going to look to you as a leader, your community looks to you as a leader, and a good leader or representative acknowledges “an error of judgement” and makes it right.

Selina Stevenson-Birk

Salmo

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