Ottawa mayor target of homophobic hate crime at his home

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Ottawa mayor target of homophobic hate crime at his home
Author of the article:Jon Willing
Publishing date:Mar 22, 2021 • 17 hours ago • 4 minute read • comment bubble5 Comments
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. PHOTO BY TONY CALDWELL /Postmedia
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Mayor Jim Watson experienced a contrast of emotions over the weekend, from the high of setting a civic record to being the target of a homophobic hate crime.

“I was having a great day on Saturday. I celebrated my little bit of history as the longest-serving mayor and this put a little bit of a damper on it within 24 hours,” Watson said Monday during a noon-hour interview.


“But you’ve got to move on.”

The hateful graffiti was painted on the road at the end of his driveway.

Watson said a neighbour said she believed she heard something late Friday night or early Saturday morning. He left Saturday for an event and noticed there was some paint there but didn’t pay much attention to it.

On Sunday, police came to Watson’s door telling him about the homophobic graffiti on the road at the end of his driveway after the neighbour alerted police to the hate crime.

“You always want to feel safe in your own home and your own neighbourhood and I’ve always felt that way. There have been a couple of incidents over the years, but nothing homophobic like that,” Watson said.

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Security was recently heightened at his west-end home.

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Ottawa mayor Jim Watson
Homophobic hate graffiti found outside Mayor Watson's home

Watson said someone put a bunch of sticky notes on his door two weeks ago, “for some cause I could not quite figure out … a bit of rambling notes.”

Last November, a protest over the Barrhaven LRT line and its impact on housing happened on the road outside of his house.

City corporate security installed a security camera system as a result of the sticky-note incident, Watson said, and security is reviewing with the police to see if they can determine who painted the hateful message in front of his house on the weekend. Watson has his doubts because it’s dark on the road.

“I think generally we’re a very caring society and safe city, but it’s a little unsettling when you see someone coming late at night and spray painting something attacking your sexual orientation,” Watson said.

“There have been lots of other people who have been unfortunately attacked. We think of the Asian community right now under siege. It’s sad to say, but sometimes these things come with a large city. We’re now one million population and I don’t recall when I was mayor back in the ’90s of any issue involving my security or attacks or hate activity on my own property.”

Watson said he’s especially concerned about the impact on children when they hear about such an attack.

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“I worry more about those young kids and others who are dealing with their own sexuality right now and are thinking (about coming out or not coming out) and they see something like this,” Watson said. “They don’t want to be subjected to that graffiti or language in their own homes. The message gets across that it’s, in my case, a very rare incident and people should still feel very comfortable with who they are.”

He also wondered what impact it would have for young people interested in entering politics.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, said it’s the “double-edge sword” for prospective politicians in the gay community.

“This is how we live our lives. We have to come out every single day of our lives and these are risks we are constantly taking or constantly asking ourselves, is it safe?” Kennedy said.

“It’s just one more thing you weigh up before you put your name on a ballot and it’s definitely something you consider, not only in terms of what the reaction is going to be (from) your constituents, but what is the reaction going to be when you get elected from your colleagues.”

Kennedy said it’s important to talk openly about when these kinds of hate crimes happen.

Coun. Diane Deans, the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said what happened to the mayor was the latest in a “disturbing rise in hate crimes that we have seen in our city.”

According to Deans, hate crimes in the city increased by more than 50 per cent in 2020, compared to 2019. There were 182 reported hate crimes in 2020, compared to 116 in 2019.

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“Members of the BIPOC community and the LGBTQ+ community have been among those most affected with the largest increase in reported incidents among Asian Canadians,” Deans said at a press briefing before a police board meeting. “Asian Canadians have been dealing with an increase in verbal threats and even physical assaults since the pandemic began.”

Those behaviours, Deans said, “are fuelled by harmful racial stereotypes and ignorance and cannot be tolerated.”

Watson announced he’s gay in a piece he wrote for the Citizen in August 2019.

Watson said a couple of hateful people have been ugly toward him since he came out, like one person shouting a slur at him on Elgin Street, but the overwhelming majority of people have been kind and welcoming since his announcement.

Since news of the hate graffiti started spreading Sunday, Watson has been receiving piles of supportive emails and social media messages, which are notes he has found comforting.

“People don’t believe this, but I have developed a thicker skin than I did (have),” Watson said when asked about how he handles personal attacks compared to criticisms of his policymaking.

“It was hard to see yourself criticized publicly, and I have to admit, it’s a little harder when it’s personal versus policy-orientated. You can debate on the merits of policy. When you’re name-called, whether it’s racist or sexist or homophobic against you, it becomes a little more difficult, but people have been really supportive with their tweets and so on, and that fills my heart.”

— With files from Shaamini Yogaretnam

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling
 

B00Mer

China Joe
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Why do homosexuals' feel the need to "come out".. I mean really does the public really have top know WTF you do in the bedroom.

Do we really care??

...and the people attacking this guy on his sexual preference, are ignorant trash.. just fuck off and leave the guy alone..