Pickering Councillor resigns committee seat via YouTube; replacement named in raucous meeting

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Published June 27, 2023 at 8:56 am

From an impassioned speech on the difficulties kids growing up gay endure to the ramblings of a far right YouTuber who called PFlag Durham a “political lobbyist group,” Monday night’s Pickering Council meeting had it all.

And that was just the first half an hour.

The genesis for the attention and the controversy surrounding Monday’s meeting was a notice of motion filed by Councillor Maurice Brenner to remove Ward 1 Councillor Lisa Robinson from her seat on the Safety and Wellbeing Committee for comments made (and notices of motion of her own) regarding Pride Month, the flying of the Pride flag, drag shows and of gender-neutral washrooms.

Those in support of Pride and of inclusion put their names down as delegates for the meeting. Those against the flying of the Pride flag and in support of Robinson also made their presence known on the delegation list.

Meanwhile, Robinson herself was not in attendance and had, in fact, resigned from the committee a week prior on June 19 in a YouTube video shot by right wing podcaster Rick Troyan, who was one of the delegations in-person at the meeting.

Robinson has a history of using YouTube to encourage residents to support her anti-Pride motions and shot a video outside a tense Durham District School Board meeting where the flying of the Pride flag was being debated just six weeks ago.

In her video shot June 19, Robinson said the number of “6-1” votes in council this session – with the Ward 1 Councillor being the ‘1’ – were proof that she has the “ability” to “see things differently from her colleagues and possessed “critical voting skills.”

The councillor wasn’t concerned with resigning her seat on the committee: “I’ll let you in on a little secret. When leaders don’t want to make the hard decisions, they form committees,” calling the political bodies “nameless and faceless.”

“I will continue to fight,” she said, “for the rights of children to feel safe in community spaces,” adding that she will be the voice of her supporters, “no matter how controversial the topic will be.”

Troyan, who introduced Robinson’s proclimation on his channel with a rambling speech, spoke in Robinson’s defence at Monday’s Council meeting, saying she was the “only councillor doing her homework” and “fighting for the whole community, instead of pandering to special interest groups and virtue-signalling to political lobbyist groups” like PFlag Durham.

Troyan told council they were “not supposed to take a side” and tried to needle Brenner into a debate, while occasionally pausing to point out that he was “assaulted in the lobby” on the way into the meeting and later noting that “the woman who assaulted me in 2015 is here now.”

Focussed again on Brenner, Troyan said the long-time councillor “should have known” that “these things come and go,” presumably referring to the Pride movement.

Kevin Ashe debated Troyan briefly and the Mayor indulged him as Troyan, who emphasized he doesn’t “wish harm” on the LGBQT+ community, called support for Pride activities the “breeding ground for contempt and hate” in the city.

Troyan, who admitted he was not a resident of the “Pickering neighbourhood,” also demanded the City take down all the “special interest” flags from government buildings and chastised Ashe for nor recognizing other groups honoured elsewhere in June, such as the Indigenous community and seniors. When informed that the City had indeed made those proclamations, Troyer’s response was Pride support was for a “whole month.”

Pickering resident Peter Kirwin also came out against flying the Pride flag and of the treatment Robinson had received from her fellow councillors, saying Robinson was “bullied” and accusing Council of various violations of the City’s Code of Conduct.

Prior to Troyan and Kirwin there were several delegations from residents speaking in favour of flying the Pride flag and of supporting the LGBQT+ community, including one emotional address from Ed Cunningham, a father of a ‘tween’ girl who has identified as Queer.

Cunnningham talked about the importance of the flag and of the misconceptions many in the greater community have about the meaning of inclusion. “There is no part of the Pride flag flying outside that is about the exclusion of heterosexual people,” he said.

Cunningham also made it clear that support for the LGBQT+ community and their right to exist was non-negotiable. “We can’t choose a middle ground between people who are working and fighting to just be who they are and the people who are against them for who they are,” he said.

The abuse suffered by his daughter in school, the courage she showed him during the worst times and the support and encouragement from those who have her back, also showed the 45 year-old father how important Pride is to people like his daughter.

“Pride events can provide a massive confidence boost to kids dealing with the challenges of being different in an already challenging part of life,” he said. “Being a kid who is different is hard.”

Pickering Council reiterated their unqualified support for Pride Month activities and the flying of the Pride flag, with the only motion passed Monday related to the issue the unanimous appointment of Shaheen Butt as Robinson’s successor on the Safety and Wellbeing Committee.

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