racist bus ad in mississauga: make your voice heard

My friend and comrade Peter alerted me (and many others) to this hideous ad.

Paul Fromm, a mayoral candidate in the recent Mississauga municipal election, is known for his fascist views. A former teacher, Fromm lost his job when he refused to end his association with white supremacist groups. He has written for Stormfront, and has had a series of human rights complaints against him.

Mississauga, the sixth largest city in Canada, would barely exist if it weren't for immigration. Our city is a living, breathing example of the vibrancy of multiculturalism, and proof that Canadian multiculturalism works. Therefore I have no doubt that some residents of Mississauga - perhaps some of those who lived here when it was a white, rural enclave (before it was called Mississauga) - object to our beautiful mosaic. Of course, those folks are all descendants of immigrants, too, but they conveniently forget that fact when blaming their bitter lives on their brown neighbours.

Fromm received 917 votes in the recent election, good enough for ninth place. While he's clearly no threat to Mayor Hazel McCallion, the fact that 900 of my neighbours would vote for this man is disturbing.

From the Mississauga News:
The election is over, but a campaign advertisement that appeared on Mississauga Transit buses – and was still running as late as last week – is firing up residents.

The outsized ad, placed prominently on the back of the vehicles and touting mayoralty candidate Paul Fromm, read: "Fight Gridlock: Freeze Immigration."

Fromm is no stranger to controversy. A former Peel District School Board teacher, he was fired in 1997 after he ignored warnings from administrators to stop associating with known racists and white supremacists. The B’Nai Brith and other organizations had complained about his conduct at a series of right-wing political rallies.

Peter Votsch was so offended by Fromm’s sign, he filed a formal complaint with Mississauga Transit.

“It attempts to link immigration to gridlock, topics which have no apparent relation. This ad appears to be an attack on immigration and immigrant communities, bizarrely blaming immigrants to Canada/Mississauga for heavy traffic on our roads. It is a racist ad that attempts to create anti-immigrant sentiment during our municipal election,” he wrote in his complaint.

Votsch wanted to know why such a “blatantly anti-immigrant message” would appear on public transit. He also wants measures taken to prevent such ads from appearing in all public spaces.

. . .

Fromm insists he was not targeting any particular sector.

“Definitely, I oppose all immigration at this time,” he said. “With 8.4 per cent unemployment, Canada should accept no more immigration until we get Canadians back to work. My ads attacked no community. The ads refer to future intake and cast no aspersions on people who are presently here.”

Contacted by The News, Mississauga Transit director Geoff Marinoff said the City of Mississauga is having the ad removed as the contracted period is over.

“CBS Outdoor is the City’s on-board bus and shelter advertising contractor. The terms of the contract require CBS Outdoor to review the advertising creative for an ad both against the City of Mississauga’s advertising policy and the national Canadian Code of Advertising Standards,” said Marinoff.

He noted that if CBS Outdoor views an ad as questionable, it refers it back to City staff.

“The ad was reviewed by staff and placed on buses...as it met both the policy criteria and the advertising standards,” he said.

Peter responds:
My aim in all of this is to question why the City is outsourcing to a private corporation (CBS Outdoor) to decide what is and isn't to be posted on public space, especially when that corporation has an economic incentive NOT to refuse ads. It seems the Human Rights Code has been privatised in Mississauga.

The City of Mississauga, in turn, responds that not enough people have complained for it to make a difference.

Thanks to Peter's activist network, that may soon be changing. If you would like to add your voice, contact:

Julie Lavertu, Legislative Coordinator
City of Mississauga
Legislative Services Division, Office of the City Clerk
905.615.3200, ext. 5471

For my part, I'm grateful for this ad. It's an opportunity to see this man Fromm for what he really is, and to speak out against him. I do, however, agree that an advertising media company should not be - must not be - the arbiter of what ads appear in public spaces. These are usually the companies that refuse pro-choice or queer-themed ads, while accepting bigoted filth like this.


Guillermo said...

It's always the same... Since Adolf times in the early 40's. If anything goes wrong at home, blame the immigrants. If they could only realize how much harder we work to make our way in this country sometimes!

The Conservative Legacy in Canada has not only been a mismanaged economy but also this bunch of ignorants we are looking at now, some of them very well know, like Mr. L. Green.

So be careful my fellow immigrant... We have tough times ahead!

Have a good day.

Mr. G.

L-girl said...

Since Adolf times in the early 40's.

Since way before that! Adolf didn't event scapegoating. Most of the targetted by the Third Reich were not immigrants. They were German citizens.

Thanks for your comment, all best.

Mike said...

I find it interesting that the policies that these neocons have been espousing and implimenting for years and that have put us in these tough economic times, watching the scapegoating as they try to misdirect the public and offload blame is awe inspiring. I mean the sure gall really. They could give Penn and Teller lessons in misdirection.

Lorna said...

Jaw - on - floor!

Mike said...

er... that should have been sheer gall not sure gall. Someday I will remember to proof read before I post not days later.

johngoldfine said...

I don't know anything about Paul Fromm, but his ad (simply as ad) seems innocuous enough if you believe that there is the possibility of opposition to immigration on legitimate policy grounds and that opposition is not necessarily and always rooted in racism.

No doubt there is a subtext in the ad I'm missing.

L-girl said...

Given Fromm's background (neo-nazi, white supremacist, racist views), the makeup of the population of Mississauga, the gigantic growth of Mississauga in the last 5-10 years (all due to immigration), and Canada's commitment to multiculturalism, which is still controversial to some people, from where I sit, seeing this ad as innocuous would take some highly gifted mental gymnastics. Disingenuous to say the least.

johngoldfine said...

As I say, I have no knowledge of anything except the picture of the ad.

Personally, having two immigrant grandparents (one from the Pale, one from Canada via the Pale) and an immigrant daughter (Vietnam), I'm hardly anti-immigration.

Hell, some of my best friends are immigrants...and some of my fondest web friends are emigrants!

L-girl said...

John, I would have been very surprised to learn you were anti-immigrant. I didn't know (or forgot) that your forebears came through Canada. Mine went to New York harbor, from Minsk and other ghettos.

I think even without the many subtexts of this ad, any campaign that blames a current social ill or inconvenience on immigration is indulging in scapegoating. That is xenophobic and generally racist.

johngoldfine said...

So, this fellow was hoping to win votes by harking Mississaugans back to the days when they could amble across Main St at high noon, dodging the sleeping dogs--and blaming growth on immigrants.

I can see that is xenophobic and that it appeals to, incites, and excites racism.

Well, that's no good, and it is indeed depressing that he got 900 odd votes instead of the one or two he deserved (his own and, perhaps, his wife's.)

On the other hand, the ad does not accuse immigrants of drinking the blood of 'real' Canadians in secret voodoo rituals, or plotting to impose burkas on all Canadian women, or arguing that immigration from Iceland, Norway, and Sweden ought to be encouraged while it ought to be completely abolished from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South Asia.

But, if I'm not mistaken, such ads would run afoul of Canadian hate crime laws? So, sham subtlety is the deal on the bus ad. The ugly message is conveyed without violating, at least on the face of things, POGG....

All that said, there are areas of policy that are legitimate sources of debate--and I would include immigration policy: all along the spectrum from the POV that national borders should be abolished and that people should be allowed to move and settle freely anywhere to the POV that the gates should be barred forever and the key tossed.

I don't think that that debate is inherently racist, which I would consider, for example, debate on repealing civil rights laws, on differential sentencing for different forms of the same drug, on reducing aid to inner cities, on zoning restrictions which lead to defacto residential segregation, etc.

PS--yes, as a babe in arms my grandmother Rebecca Albert arrived from Vilna in Montreal, where the family settled before she was swept off her feet by that handsome young glovemaker from Boston, my grandfather, whose own father was a Galitzianer. Hard to believe that a fine Anglo-Saxon/French name like 'Albert' was actually the family's original moniker....

L-girl said...

I agree that immigration per se is a subject for legitimate debate (although I think my views would seem radical to most other viewpoints taking part in that debate). Sadly, that debate is often so poisoned by racism, scapegoating and xenophobia, that serious debate becomes impossible.

But you have hit the proverbial nail about Cdn hate crime laws, POGG and hidden messages.

It is indeed depressing and scary that 900 people voted for this man - and indeed why I oppose hate-speech laws. Without this ad, I would not have seen this particular danger.

Michelle said...

If anyone wants more info on Paul Fromm, it's all on line: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_for_Foreign_Aid_Reform

He has been spouting anti-immigrant rants for decades in this city, hadn't heard about him in a while. We have to be vigilant about the extreme right getting emboldened to post this kind of garbage (on municipal buses no less...). Great work Peter!

L-girl said...

Hey, thanks for the link, Michelle.