Toni Boot refused Monday night to apologize to a Summerland shop owner who claims the mayor damaged his reputation when she dropped by for a well-publicized visit earlier this month to destroy what was left of a shipment of bandanas that looked like the Confederate flag.
“I knowingly put myself in a place of criticism. My actions, done as the mayor of Summerland, were an overt and public display of anti-racism in response to an overt and public display of racism earlier in the week.
“The Confederate flag is a contributing factor to displays of racism. I am a leader and leaders are expected to lead,” Boot said in her mayor’s report during what was a regularly scheduled council meeting.
“In Canada, the sale of the Confederate flag and merchandise bearing its image is not illegal – neither is the sale of the Nazi Party flag. The Confederate flag is a universal symbol of hate, just like the swastika. Both flags have been co-opted by white supremacy groups.”
Boot showed up at Your Dollar Store With More on July 18 with two friends and a reporter in tow, and confronted staff about the sale of the bandanas. While the bandanas had already been pulled from the shelf, there were still some in the store’s stock room that were given to Boot by staff. She then went outside and cut up the bandanas using scissors she brought for the job.
The mayor said she learned the bandanas were at the store after accepting an apology the night before from a man who displayed one of the items during an anti-racism parade earlier in the week.
Allan Carter, owner of Your Dollar Store With More, set out his version of events in a letter to Summerland council that was published by The Herald last week.
Carter asked for a public apology from Boot “for bullying my staff and her very inappropriate actions,” and claimed the issue “is not about racism.”
“This issue is about your lack of respect, professional conduct, abuse of power, bullying and poor judgement towards a local business and staff that strongly supports our community events financially and our community at large,” concluded Carter.
The letter set off a firestorm of controversy in the sharply divided community, but council accepted it Monday night for information only and without comment.
Carter’s letter also generated 135 pieces of correspondence to the district as of mid-afternoon Monday, according to corporate officer Karen Needham.
Staff categorized 96 of them as in support of Boot, 27 in support of Carter and the other 12 as neutral, according to Needham, who told The Herald the letters are only available for inspection at town hall because of the sheer volume and because they don’t form part of Monday’s agenda package.
Just two people raised the issue during the public comment period of Monday’s meeting. The first speaker backed Carter’s call for an apology, while the second, Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, said Boot should be “celebrated” for taking a stand.
“Some people may have not liked the message she used, but you need to think past that and why she did it,” said Fortin.