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.

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