'Disappointing, disheartening': O-day'min candidates condemn racism directed at fellow candidate
A group of candidates in the O-day'min ward are putting competition aside to support a colleague and condemn the racism he's experiencing.
Adrian Bruff says he's been experiencing hatred and racism on the campaign trail for the past year.
"I'm constantly receiving harassing, vitriolic messages online, to being called the n-word while door knocking," said Bruff.
When he spoke about it at a recent forum, some of his fellow candidates came together in a show of support.
"To hear that he's going through that, it's really painful to watch," said O-day'min candidate Gino Akbari. "Right now, I think more than ever, we need each other, we need each other as a country, as a city, as neighbours."
Akbari, Joshua Wolchansky, Anne Stevenson and Gabrielle Battiste all signed a statement condemning the barriers some face when running for public office – whether they be women, BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+.
Those barriers often include threats of violence, Bruff said, like a recent phone call he received.
"He reminded me to 'watch it' and hope I didn't have to call 911 any time soon."
Bruff says the harassment and threats are concerning for him and his family, and take a lot of his time and energy away from his campaign.
"It's disappointing, disheartening… because I like being in my community, I like being accessible," said Bruff. "The last thing I want to do is have to worry about my safety or the safety of my colleagues when we show up at a community event. That's the last thing I want to worry about."
"This issue goes beyond politics," said Stevenson. "It's about what's best for our community, and our community is served well when we have a diversity of voices represented on council."
By talking about discrimination openly, the group is hoping to highlight that racism continues to be a real problem in politics and beyond.
"It's a systemic issue that requires a systemic fix, and it takes the focus of all of us dedicated to making our community a better place to be able to come up with that," said Battiste.
"We will work together no matter where we are for the best interests of Edmontonians as a whole and to make this an inclusive, accessible and safe city."
"How can we make sure that from a framework perspective we're encouraging more BIPOC to run, that we're encouraging more women to run, that we're actually creating better access to power," said Wolchansky. "Council sets the tone, and if you have a passion for your community you should feel like you have the opportunity to run free from hatred, free from discrimination."
In a statement to CTV News, O-day’min candidate Tony Caterina said: “No one should have to be subjected to this type of behavior. Not acceptable under any circumstances. This is the dark side of social media. As a 5-year-old newcomer to this country and to this city I can understand how hurtful this can be.”
Bruff is thankful for the support from his competitors.
"The outpouring of support I've been receiving from my fellow candidates and Edmontonians is humbling," said Bruff. "I thank you guys so much for having my back and being an ally on this journey."
Now that the competitors have each other's backs, they're eager to move forward and fight for votes.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson.