Toronto’s racist, misogynist and homophobic citizens are rearing their ugly heads in the last days before the election, anonymously targeting several city council and school board candidates.
Ward 30 candidate Jane Farrow, who is openly queer, tweeted a picture of a defaced campaign sign on Oct 23. A vandal had drawn a swastika over a picture of her face and added the words “I hate men” in a speech bubble to the side.
Farrow tells Xtra in an email that while several campaign signs have been stolen or damaged, this was the first one that included a blatantly misogynist attack. There were also unconfirmed Twitter reports that one of mayoral candidate Olivia Chow’s signs had been defaced.
But, rather than focus on the negative, Farrow says the reaction to the vandalized signs has been inspiring. “Our supporters have let us know about them immediately; they’ve been incredibly understanding, and they’ve happily taken another sign — or even a couple of them.”
There has been a spate of discriminatory incidents around Toronto targeting female and minority candidates. Ward 2 council candidate Munira Abukar had a campaign sign covered in Islamaphobic hate speech, as did Ward 18 candidate Mohammed Uddin. Abukar tweeted Oct 23 that a man driving a Purolator truck had thrown trash on several of her volunteers and called them terrorists. A Purolator spokesperson noted on Twitter that the company is investigating the incident.
Ausma Malik, a candidate for the Toronto District School Board, had to leave a recent all-candidates debate through the back door after an angry group yelled at and threatened her. Anonymous pamphlets have been distributed in her ward, accusing her of supporting terrorist organizations.
Ward 27 incumbent Kristyn Wong-Tam has received two hate letters in the last four months, and in September one of her volunteers was subject to verbal abuse directed at the councillor. Wong-Tam has spoken out against these incidents.
Farrow believes that these actions have forced people to have more open discussions about discrimination. “Toronto often likes to pretend it is a city where those things don’t exist,” she writes. “Our City Council may look white, straight and old. But Toronto isn’t. We’re not going to change, it’s our representation that needs to.”