Saskatoon

Mayor's spokesperson apologizes for use of 'lifestyle choice' in Orlando shooting media release

Mayor Don Atchison's spokesperson, Richard Brown, is apologizing and taking responsibility for what he calls a poor choice of words relating to "lifestyle choice."

Richard Brown says it was a poor choice of words

Fredericton Pride Week starts August 7th (CBC)

Mayor Don Atchison's spokesperson, Richard Brown, is apologizing and taking responsibility for what he calls a poor choice of words relating to "lifestyle choice."

Earlier today, the mayor's office sent out a press release condemning the attack that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early on Sunday morning.

In a statement, Atchison said he was shocked and saddened by the attack, which also left 53 people wounded. It was the worst mass-shooting by a single shooter in American history. 

"Everyone should be safe in our communities regardless of their lifestyle choices, religion or ethnicity," said Atchison in a statement.

Zach Jefferies is a city councillor in Saskatoon and told the mayor he was offended by the wording.

"If anyone would ask me whether it be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender is a lifestyle choice, clearly the answer is no," said Jefferies. "I didn't choose to be straight."

I didn't choose to be straight.- Zach Jefferies, city councillor

"I think the suggestion, if anyone has made it, that people were targeted based on choices they made is not only wrong but offensive."

Jefferies expressed his concern to the mayor and the mayor apologized.

"I think you have to ask the mayor how something like that could be released from one's office with wording to that effect," Jefferies said

Jack Saddleback, president of the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union (USSU) and the first transgender person elected to the position, said the comments were demeaning. 

"It definitely was a poor choice of words," Saddleback said. "When you utilise the term 'lifestyles' it just goes to demean this whole movement of the gay rights movement and how we are standing up and we have been standing up for years to let people know that we are born who we are and should be celebrated as such and not necessarily seen as any sort of choice and our human rights in all of that should not be seen as a choice."

Atchison said the flags at city hall, including the pride flag, would remain at half-mast after they were lowered last week to honour the death of hockey legend Gordie Howe. 

"Once again the world stands united against an act of terrorism and hate," Atchison. "Today we grieve for the victims and offer our condolences to their families and friends."

He also extended his thoughts and prayers to the victims who are in hospital, recovering from the attack. 

About the Author

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.