People from across Canada and the U.S. sent messages of support to Summerland Mayor Toni Boot in the days that followed her high-profile visit to a local shop that sold bandanas designed to look like the Confederate flag.
The notes, which are only available for viewing in person at town hall, include messages from Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and a handful of other local politicians from across B.C.
Support also came from as far east as Ontario and Minnesota.
“I am writing you from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the current wave of change got underway. Since I can’t be there to physically support you, I just want you to know you have the support of maybe hundreds of thousands of people in North America and around the world,” a person who signed as J. Santiago said in an email.
“It was a courageous act that doesn’t seem to happen as much as it used to (especially down here in the States). Of course there was going to be push-back, but you’re on the right side of the issue (and history).”
Nick Ripley of Seattle agreed.
“You are a wonderful example of the type of behaviour that should be demonstrated toward the antiquated, hateful symbols of a bygone era. Keep on being amazing!” wrote Ripley.
But that sentiment wasn’t shared by everyone who wrote to Boot on the issue.
“Just because you are Black and the flag is Confederate doesn’t take away the fact that this is a group of peoples’ heritage and you through (sic) it in the garbage,” wrote Jason Rudolph, who didn’t list a hometown.
“It’s the exact same as a white person throwing a Jamaican flag in the garbage and ripping it up.”
Approximately half of the notes – district staff counted 135, 96 of which were classified as in support of the mayor – were penned by Summerlanders, including well-respected businessman Ken Sewell, who owns Builders Mart.
“I want you to know that even though I disagreed with some of your decisions while in public office I was proud that when you discovered who displayed the bandana you quickly and discreetly helped the individual to see where his actions were improper and probably quite offensive to some,” wrote Sewell.
“However, that is in direct contrast to the way you handled the situation with a respected Summerland retailer. You should have discreetly contacted the owner and informed him that even though it was not illegal for him to sell the bandanas it would be in poor taste and offensive to some. Instead, possibly because of the emotional impact of recent events you (proceeded) to dishonour a respected member of the business community and even worse used the opportunity for a full fledge (sic) media event.”
Sewell concluded by suggesting Boot offer a public apology to Allan Carter, the owner of Your Dollar Store With More, outside of which the bandanas were destroyed.
The notes were written in response to a letter Carter sent to council setting out his version of events and asking for an apology from Boot.
The mayor, however, stood firm at Monday’s council meeting, which had Carter’s letter on the agenda.
“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,” she said.
“The Confederate flag is a contributing factor to displays of racism. I am a leader and leaders are expected to lead.”
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.