Southwood resident 'not really sorry' for anti-immigrant letters dismissed by council as 'bigotry'

The author of one of the letters that prompted city council to review its policy toward bigotry in public submissions stands by what she wrote.

76-year-old woman 'mad about so many things' in Calgary, including immigrants building secondary suites

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi hopes to see a commitment to helping fund municipal infrastructure projects in this week's federal budget. (CBC)

The author of one of the letters that prompted Calgary city council to review its policy toward bigotry in public submissions stands by what she wrote.

"So sorry. Sort of sorry. Not really sorry. You know? Too bad," Helen Dougall said in a telephone interview following widespread criticism from members of council to several submissions penned by her and another writer.

The letters were submitted in opposition to a pair of secondary-suite applications, based on the ethnicity of the applicants.

"I am opposed for these 'people' from other countries coming here and trying to change their land use from R1 [contextual] to R1s," Dougall wrote in one letter, referring to current and proposed zoning types the applicants were seeking.

"They should just butt out, right out of the country," she wrote in a second letter.

Reached Monday afternoon, Dougall said she didn't recall at first what she said in the letters, but when they were read back to her, she reaffirmed their contents.

"I don't see anything wrong with what I said," Dougall said.

"I just don't like the fact that people from other countries are coming here and buying houses … and wanting to rezone the area to suit their own needs and then renting out to people who maybe aren't the nicest people."

But Dougall says she would have never written the letter if she knew it was going to be on public record.

Former mayoral candidate tossed from meeting

The 76-year-old said she has lived in Southwood for the past 40 years and doesn't live right next to the proposed secondary-suite locations, but was encouraged to write to council by former mayoral candidate Larry Heather, who came to her door to solicit opposition against the applications.

Heather himself was thrown out of council Monday during the public hearing portion after the mayor ruled that his comments on one of the secondary-suite applications were not relevant to the matter at hand.

He then continued to opine online.

Coun. Druh Farrell said the "bigotry" in the comments received by council is not only distasteful, but legally irrelevant.

"We're supposed — we're legally required — to make our decisions based on planning matters, not what kind of people will be moving into a neighbourhood," Farrell said.

"We've seen it before and we're seeing it more and more," she added. "People are putting voice to the reasons why they don't want 'those people' in their neighbourhood, and it's very sad."

'I'm mad about so many things'

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said council did the right thing by calling for more study on how to respond to these types of written submissions.

"If someone started saying that at the mic, I'd cut off the mic," he said.

"So we should think about what's in the corporate record and in the public agenda. That said, people should think about what they write. And, if those are your points of view, well, I'm sorry but those are not points of view that are particularly interesting or helpful for your city government."

Dougall, for her part, said her frustration with the city goes beyond immigrants building secondary suites.

"I'm mad about so many things," she said.

With files from Diane Yanko and Monty Kruger


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