Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton
I don’t know why hypocrisy by politicians still manages to surprise me. Recently, it was being paraded in plain sight by Brampton’s Mayor Linda Jeffrey when she waded in on the recent controversy around Muslim prayer in Peel public schools.
But before I comment on Mayor Jeffrey’s latest hypocritical pandering, lets revisit Her Worship’s own entanglement with prayer in a public institution – her own council chamber.
In 2015, Brampton’s newly elected Chief Magistrate and her council acted on one of Jeffrey’s own campaign promises and dropped reciting the Lord’s Prayer at Council meetings, killing a 163 year tradition that went back to the first Brampton village council meeting of January 1853. This was done after a public meeting to discuss the plan was cancelled in the face of fierce public outrage.
More recently, the Peel District School Board attempted to implement changes to the practice of Muslim prayer in their schools by providing prepared sermon texts by local Imams for the youth to use. This did not go over well with Muslim students, and in the process of receiving public delegations, a number of people expressed their opposition to any kind of prayer in a public school.
Some remarks had racist overtones. Public delegations were eventually stopped and the changes shelved.
“Have your backs”
Recently, in an interview on TVO, Mayor Jeffery said that she felt her expression of support for the Muslim community was needed after hearing from religious leaders, who were anxious about the tone of comments on social media and elsewhere. “I want people to feel welcome in Brampton; I want them to feel safe. I want them to know I have their backs.”
I am certain Brampton residents join me in wishing Mayor Jeffrey truly “had their backs” at Council. Given the endless squabbling and complete lack of cooperation among all Council members and Jeffrey’s inability to lead, Brampton has lurched from one debacle to another since Mayor Jeffrey was elected.
And many Bramptonians have been telling me they are fed up with Jeffrey’s constant taking credit for achievements that are in fact largely the work of her predecessor Susan Fennell and the previous council.
The funding of the Peel Memorial Centre for Health and Wellness, the original University plan, Brampton’s significant investment in expanded public transit, major infrastructure investment – all under Fennell. Jeffrey’s administration began with the failure to secure the approval to complete the LRT line through Brampton with the loss of $300 million in funding, and her record has not improved.
Religious accommodation has been a fixture of life in Canada for years. Sikhs have worn kirpans, Muslim women the hijab, and for the most part Canadians have accepted diversity and gotten on with their lives.
While we must all defend the rights of our fellow citizens regardless of race, creed or colour, I believe politicians like our own Mayor need to remember their own public record before they wade in on any issue.
Jeffrey banned prayer in City Hall, and now supports it in Public Schools. Mayor Jeffrey needs to be reminded that, try as they might, even politicians can’t suck and blow at the same time, and voters have long grown tired of the hypocrisy of it all.
Brampton-based Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer.