A Brampton councillor violated the city’s code of conduct when he replied to a constituent’s email with racial remarks, the city’s integrity commissioner ruled Wednesday.
Coun. John Sprovieri’s replies to a constituent, which he sent en masse to councillors, were the emails read across the country last summer.
The constituent’s email — with the subject line “Why are white people still planning Brampton’s future?” — was directed to all members of council and alleged discrimination in the city’s hiring practices.
Sprovieri replied: “To be fair, people of all races, colour and creed are eager to come to Brampton and Canada because the white people of this nation have developed a great system where everyone is welcome and can live peacefully together.
“I hope that the newcomers will learn the values of the white people so that Brampton and Canada will continue to be a favourite destination.”
He also later wrote: “The native people want their land back. Any suggestions on how that may happen?”
Last August, after weeks of media scrutiny, outrage in the community and social media, and at least one complaint filed with the city’s integrity commissioner, he apologized.
“I have, with the wisdom that comes with hindsight and sombre reflection, realized that I owe an apology for a confusing email exchange with a constituent,” he said.
In the wake of Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno’s report on Wednesday, Sprovieri suggested the problem was with his choice of words.
“If I would have known this would have blown up the way it did, I would not have used the word ‘white,’” he said. “I would’ve used the words ‘Canadian values.’”
Coun. Martin Medeiros took the opportunity to put forward a motion, which passed unanimously Wednesday, for all councillors to receive diversity training.
“It should never have happened — especially from somebody in our position and especially in a diverse community like the one we have,” he told CityNews.
“We were all reminded why diversity training is so important.”
It’s something Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey also called for last summer, saying the email was “not an isolated incident.”
“I don’t think there’s ever a time when additional training isn’t valuable, certainly in a city as diverse as this,” she said.
“I think there’s lots of people watching what we do as council members, and we certainly want to hold ourselves to the highest account.”
Though he apologized, Sprovieri initially defended his remarks to CityNews, saying, “Maybe it doesn’t sound good, but really I don’t see how it’s incorrect. It may be improper, possibly, but it’s certainly not incorrect.”
These remarks, along with the email, formed the basis of the complaint to Giorno by Peel District School Board Trustee Harkirat Singh, who called the comments “offensive and insensitive.”
“I initiated this complaint to hold a member of council responsible for his words,” Singh said. “We are a diverse, multicultural community that is a role model for the rest of Canada. Our leadership needs to work in a way that supports every member of the community. I hope the findings show Coun. Sprovieri that his comments were hurtful and highly problematic. Our city deserves better.”
While Giorno found Sprovieri violated Rule 15 of the councillors’ code of conduct, which states “members should conduct themselves with appropriate decorum at all times,” he did not think it warranted a financial penalty.
“I do not think this is a case for a suspension of compensation,” he wrote.
Giorno did, however, believe a public apology was in order. In his report, he noted Sprovieri’s Aug. 9 apology to council meets the criteria.
“While I do believe it is a good idea for [Sprovieri] to accept the offer of diversity sensitivity training, neither the code nor the complaint process permit me to include this request in my recommendations for corrective actions,” Giorno wrote.
Jeffrey said the training can begin well before the next election, slated for October.
“I am very glad my complaint directly led to council taking this great step to ensure that the residents of Brampton are treated with respect and dignity,” Singh said.
Sprovieri, for his part, admitted his judgment may have been flawed.
“Looking back, would I have done this differently? To have responded to this resident with the way she was attacking our staff at the city, would I have used a different terminology?
“If it was a public statement, I would’ve used better judgment.”