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Jun. 23, 2021 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Saddened by councillor's 'white, privileged, wealthy' remarks

Dear editor:

In the April 29 article in The Lake Report, "NOTL seeks feedback on Ryerson Park," Coun. Erwin Wiens took the opportunity to make many remarks about the residents who live in Niagara-on-the-Lake, near or next to local parks.

He maintained that those who live in these places are white, privileged, wealthy and exclusive, a point he made many times in the article.

Since I have never met Mr. Wiens in the many years that I have lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I was saddened to see these remarks. It was hard not to take them personally, as I live right next to one of these parks, Ryerson Park.

First, let me clear up a few of the more inaccurate comments. Many of the people in my neighbourhood live in small, modest cottages. They are retired teachers, small business owners, architects, lawyers, philanthropists, town employees and artists.

Some were business executives like me. Many have fought to see diversity, equal rights for women, inclusion and social justice through their work, their art or through their generosity.

In my case, I have been the architect of innumerable policies and practices over the past 30 years that have changed workplaces, boards and communities to enshrine diversity and inclusion.

As a philanthropist, our family supports women’s and children’s programs in this community and in Peel Region. Clearly, more must be done and I am dedicated to continuing to work on these issues.

I love to see people enjoying themselves in the park next to me. The sound of children and families playing and swimming is terrific to hear. I love the diversity embodied by those who visit. I enjoy all the dog walkers, cyclists and couples sitting watching the sunset.

I enjoy seeing kayakers and canoers take off from the little beach below, and the swimmers who bob up and down at the end of my property. I would never want this park to be “just for us white privileged folks,” as you imply.

I would miss all of the conversations I have had with interesting people from around Canada and the world who have visited here over the years.

However, I am saddened by how inconsiderate some visitors can be. Parking in our driveway, parking on the grass, double-parking on the street at sunset, throwing garbage out the windows, speeding down the streets, using the park after hours, often at 1 or 2 in the morning, and the many other concerns mentioned in the Friends of Ryerson Park report.

This is not about excluding people, this is about asking people to respect each other, and respect the neighbourhood park and the people who live around it, and to make sure that everyone can use the neighbourhood safely.

The more we try to divide ourselves up into “sides” and call each other names, the more difficult it will be for us to reach solutions that can satisfy and include everyone who wants to enjoy this little part of NOTL.

Michele Darling