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Could Charlottesville happen in Burlington? Why celebrating diversity remains essential

One Burlington festival leads the way to foster unity, compassion, kindness, respect

One Burlington festival: bringing our community together to celebrate diversity

I’ve recently been approached by residents who watched in horror, as we all did, when racial hate exploded into a tragic loss of life in Charlottesville, Virginia; they wondered what policies Burlington had in place for use of public spaces.

The most relevant policy is our Zero Tolerance policy. The policy aims to ensure “measures are in place so that incidents of violence or inappropriate behaviour do not occur in its programs, facilities and properties.”

Burlington gathers together for One Burlington festival.

The principle is that everyone from organizers to participants, has “the right to be safe and to feel safe while attending a program, facility or property.”

Unacceptable behaviour in city facilities (including parks) includes, but is not limited to:

  • violence or vandalism
  • racial or ethnic slurs
  • loud verbal assaults directed at participants, referees, members of the public and City staff deemed to be aggressive or intimidating or having the objective of inciting violence
  • threats and attempts to intimidate
  • throwing of articles in a deliberate or aggressive manner
  • aggressive approaches to another individual
Enjoying cultural dances at One Burlington.

Organizations and the general public using Parks & Recreation programs, facilities and properties “must take primary responsibility for the behaviour of all associated with them: participants, officials, spectators, patrons, parents, etc.”

A separate Permit – Terms & Conditions policy requires users of public space to comply with provincial and federal legislation, which would prohibit such things as hate speech, slander and discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and other protected grounds.
My Take: We always must remain vigilant against hate, racism, and discrimination. We are not immune. Just a week ago a resident called me to report racist graffiti on a city bench downtown; graffiti was spray painted on a church that was recently burned by suspected arson. We have an obligation to set a standard for appropriate conduct, and enforce it. We can also lead the way by supporting and embracing diversity. A great example recently was the One Burlington festival at Central Park, bringing faith and cultural groups together to foster unity and celebrate compassion, kindness and mutual respect. Good news: organizers plan to make it an annual event. Thanks to everyone who volunteered to bring this event to Burlington and the public who attended.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. Marianne I think the resident would like to know if the City has a plan in place to keep the public safe should a protest turn bad. The Zero Tolerance Policy that the City has in place will not keep anyone safe should there be a public protest that goes wrong. Many of the festivals have long stretches of Brant Street as pedestrian walkways – perhaps some barriers need to be in place to prevent any vehicle from being able to get through a crowd of people.

  2. Marianne, I got the impression from the question asked was what procedures the City has in place should there be a protest and how the public would be kept safe if something did occur.

    • Tim Salisbury I’m sure the city will continue to strive for improvements on all fronts. I am blessed to be living in this city.

    • I see protests at Fearmans about once a week. Peaceful, mostly just people holding up signs with photos of pigs encouraging us not to eat them.

What's your take?