Councillor Whitehead compared moving administrative jobs to "raping" his community, then sort-of apologized, then retracted his apology.
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 05, 2016
The General Issues Committee voted to approve a $450,000 forgivable loan to Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to move 350 administrative jobs from the closing Chedoke Hospital on the West Mountain to leased space in the Stelco Tower in the downtown core.
Naturally, this provided Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead with his latest opportunity to fill the vacuum of petty, thin-skinned, mean-spirited and divisive posturing that was left when former Mayor Bob Bratina left Council for higher office.
There is a legitimate debate to be had over whether the City should be providing a subsidy for an institutional public sector employer that does not pay property taxes to relocate its employees, but Whitehead dolphin-dove right over the top by accusing HHS of "ripping and raping part of the community" with the move.
Facing a quick backlash online for his use of the term "raping" to refer to moving some administrative jobs, Whitehead posted a message on Twitter: "no insensitivity intended . Apologize to those offended. Please read".
The tweet included an attachment with a photograph of a printed document. Following is the text of the document:
So Twitter is tripping over themselves to attack Terry over his use of the phrase "ripping and raping" parts of the community, in referring to the move of the jobs from the Chedoke properties to downtown.
Its [sic] likely you'll have to make a statement about this and I suggest something like:
"My statement on ripping and raping parts of the community should not be interpreted in any way to be disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault nor was its intention ever to draw a comparision between to [sic] the moving of jobs from one place to another to that of sexual assault. The word rape ahs several meanings in the English language and in the full context of the conversation it should have been clear which meaning I was referring to. For clarity the word in question means according to the Oxford dictionary [sic] as: 'the wanton destruction or spoiling of a place'.
It is my view that the loss of healthcare services and jobs in healthcare [sic] on the mountain amounts to a wanton destruction and spoiling of what represent pristine grounds that were donated for health care purposes. One such loss that hits me and my family quite hard is the loss of the autism program that used to operate out of the quiet and peaceful Chedoke campus. This program was relocated as so many health care services have been [to] the lower city. The program now operates at the General Hospital in a much more noisy and chaotic environment than parents of autistic children (myself included) were previously used to.
Once again I meant no disrespect or offense to anyone for my choice of words and did not assume at the time that people would misapprehend my meaning. For those that did, I unreservedly apologize."
First of all, this was obviously written for Whitehead, not by him. While he instructed others to "please read" the letter, we must wonder if he bothered to read it himself.
The letter attempts to rationalize the expression "ripping and raping" to describe moving 350 administrative jobs from one part of the city to another by claiming it is analogous to the way an environmentalist might use the term to refer to the destruction of a natural environment.
It also strategically conflates this relocation of administrative jobs with the prior relocation of the Autism Program and other medical services to the Ron Joyce Children's Health Centre on Wellington Street near Barton Street.
But we know the real reason for Whitehead's outrage: he has built a cottage industry out of resentment and spite for anything that brings any benefit to the lower city.
Just look at his description of the new location for the Autism Program as a "noisy and chaotic environment", in comparison to the "pristine grounds" of the "quiet and peaceful Chedoke campus."
The original comment and his ham-fisted attempt to justify and apologize for it would all be bad enough, but of course this is Terry Whitehead, and one of the defining characteristics of a Terryism is that it keeps digging in deeper and deeper.
Just a few hours after posting the letter with the suggested apology as an apology, Terry began denying it was an apology. In a subsequent reply on Twitter, he wrote that the letter "was not meet [sic] as an apology proper context was used. Should we be offended when environmentalist [sic] use it?"
The attempted comparison to an environmentalist using the word "rape" to describe the destruction of a natural environment quickly became Terry's go-to rebuttal, and in typical Terryism fashion he began applying it liberally, growing increasingly aggressive.
He wrote: "should we be offended when environmentalist use this term to describe what is happening to our forest?"
And: "are u also offended by environmentalists use of the word describing what is happening to our forest?"
And: "it has been used for decades to describe what is happening to our forests and development..."
And: "need to understand the definition, check your dictionary and tell me how it was not approriate."
Clarifying that he was not, in fact, apologizing after all, he wrote, "correct. It was used in proper context. U only need to look at ur dictionary to understand."
When another person suggested that language evolves and should not be used to harm people, Whitehead replied: "I know that the context was correct and u are only using to bait at the expense of the ones u report [sic] to care for."
Then he quickly followed up by going even harder on the offensive: "I had another that understood the context and was offended by ur actions."
So at this point we've gone from Whitehead reposting a message written for him with a recommended apology, to Whitehead denying that he was apologizing and justifying his original statement, to Whitehead actually accusing someone who took issue with that statement of being the one causing offense.
None of Whitehead's sturm und drang would be worth covering - except that he is not just some guy online with an axe to grind.
We're talking about an elected Councillor, a civic leader of the City of Hamilton, and one of the 16 people whose job it is to determine the city's strategic vision, long-term plans, public investments, policies and policy implementation details.
Hamiltonians need and deserve better from our leaders.
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