‘Words have power, our words matter’

Screengrab via Irek Kusmierczyk Twitter

Windsor-Essex’s provincial and federal representatives are universal in their condemnation of tweets made by a town councillor from Essex.

Members of Parliament and of the Ontario Legislature took to social media Sunday and Monday to respond to comments made by Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen. Vander Doelen tweeted over the weekend that he had tested positive for COVID-19, but referred to it as the “Chinese flu”, causing multiple complaints from residents and calls for his resignation.

Essex MP Chris Lewis, a Conservative, did not single anyone out but said Monday night that people can use their words to make positive things happen.

“Words have power, our words matter. We model that to our children and teach them to use their words wisely,” said Lewis in a statement. “And when they mess up, we teach them how important it is to say ‘sorry’ and to face the consequences.”

Lewis added that with the rising tide of discrimination against people of Asian descent, people need to stand up against all forms of harassment.

Windsor-West MP Brian Masse of the NDP had a similar response, along with the one above from Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk, a Liberal.

At Queen’s Park, the region’s three NDP MPPs also weighed in on the controversy. Essex MPP Taras Natyshak retweeted Masse’s comments, while Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky commented on a critical tweet from former Essex MP Tracey Ramsey.

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield was direct in his reaction.

“I’m appalled at the words of Councillor Vander Doelen and the anti-Asian racism he displayed,” said Hatfield. “As a municipal councillor, his words hold impact, and he needs to apologize immediately. I condemn this hateful rhetoric which has no place in Windsor-Essex.”

Blackburn News has reached out to Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls for his reaction but has yet to receive a response.

Vander Doelen did not respond to Blackburn News’ repeated requests for comment, but he did tell a local radio station that it was not his intention to attack the area’s Asian community. However, he said he had no intention of removing the other tweets or resigning from office.

—with files from Adelle Loiselle