Wilmot mayor apologizes again after 'White Lives Matter' video. Not enough, says local activist

Wilmot Township Mayor Les Armstrong is apologizing to people of colour in Waterloo region following a summer incident. Meanwhile, an advocate says more can be done and other regional politicians should recommend Armstrong’s resignation.

Resignation, anti-racism policies must be considered, says ACB network member

Wilmot Mayor Les Armstrong apologized on Tuesday for sharing the Facebook video. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

Wilmot Township Mayor Les Armstrong is apologizing again to people of colour in Waterloo region after he posted a video framed by the banner "white lives matter" in the summer.

But a Black advocate says more can be done and regional politicians should encourage Armstrong to resign.

The township's integrity commissioner's report, which was approved by Wilmot Township council last month, was presented at a special regional council meeting on Tuesday.

The report said Armstrong broke the region's code of conduct twice last year. The first instance was when he shared the video to social media along with the caption "Another view. Interesting."

The second was when he offered an inadequate apology about the situation. 

Listen to the full audio of Wilmot Township Mayor Les Armstrong third apology to people of colour in Waterloo region. 3:34

Armstrong previously apologized twice for posting the video following public complaints, but according to complainants and the report, that "fell short of a sincere admission that the video was harmful to people of colour."

Armstrong apologized again on Tuesday, as was required in the integrity report that was unanimously approved. He read out the apology he shared last month with township councillors.

Regional councillors met in a special meeting Tuesday morning. (Regional Municipality of Waterloo/YouTube)

"This has been a time of reflection for me and I continue that journey," he said.

"I want to take this opportunity to apologize to those in our community, especially the Black, Indigenous and people of colour in our community, of whom my actions, specifically my action of posting a controversial and offensive video on social media have hurt," he said.

"I am deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused each of you and our community as a whole. As I stated in June, I don't expect forgiveness based on my words alone. I committed to showing the community that you can count on me to continue fighting hard for everyone through my actions and leadership," he continued on.

Armstrong added that he is proud of the work the region is doing and looks forward to future advice and information from the newly-formed anti-racism advisory working group

'An apology does not heal racial trauma'

Several council colleagues weighed in before Armstrong's apology to share thoughts on the matter, including Coun. Sue Foxton who addressed community reaction.

"What I'm really disheartened by is the divide within a community, a township that was very connected," she said.

"Whatever happened is wrong. We can't deny that. To say [Armstrong] did injury to certain individuals is correct. I'm going to be honest. I have to personally say I do not believe Les Armstrong is a racist. I believe he has apologized publicly. My thought would be that to some he has to apologize personally because these people were friends before and this has divided them and that's the saddest thing of all," she added.

Teneile Warren, steering committee member of the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, said Armstrong's apology failed to denounce what the video stood for and was not enough to address the harm done to the community.

Wilmot Township Mayor Les Armstrong is apologizing for the hurt he may have caused after sharing a video on Facebook with the banner "white lives matter" back in the summer. But a local activist says that apology is not enough and that politicians should encourage Armstrong to resign. 5:28

"An apology is not how it's done and again, the white leadership have gathered and decided, 'Well, we have said it is enough.' Which is further harm to the community because what you're doing [is] dismissing our concerns and our experiences as Mayor Armstrong's misjudgment in a moment," she said.

She said both regional and township council should recommend Armstrong resign.

"If somebody were to take a firm position that says, 'We can't work with you because we don't believe you represent our full community,' we know the decision rests with Mayor Armstrong, but that would tell us in firm, clear language that the rest of the council does not in any way condone what he did," she said.

"Two, recognize that an apology does not heal racial trauma and three, we demand action," said Warren, adding that the town must also look deeper at its anti-racism policies.