Matthew Ellis, who is running for director in Area C (Puntledge-Black Creek) of the Comox Valley Regional District in the Oct. 15 election, is being taken to task on social media about a past comment the public has identified as being bigoted.
The comment is as follows: ‘My dogs don’t like Muslims. The feeling’s mutual.’
In a Wednesday post on his Facebook page, Ellis states in a “clarification, not an apology” that the comment is being shared by those who oppose his message of small, responsible and transparent government.
“The quote was in response to a radical Muslim group attacking people’s dogs I’m (sic) an attempt to force them to get the dogs out of the neighbourhood,” Ellis states. “This type of bullying is unacceptable to me, as is the constant mud-slinging in today’s politics. I condemn racism in all its forms.”
Ellis did not respond to interview requests.
Arzeena Hamir, incumbent director and candidate for Area B (Lazo North), is a Muslim woman and mother of two women of colour.
“I was shocked and dismayed by the Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments made by Matthew Ellis,” Hamir said Wednesday. “Mr. Ellis and Comox Valley Mainstream, the third-party organization that endorses him, not only refuse to apologize for his comments, they defend this racist and hateful behaviour. The fact that they have repeatedly endorsed these statements is unacceptable in our society.”
The CV Mainstream focus is “innovative leadership” that deals with local issues, and makes things happen now. The group had endorsed Ellis and incumbent Edwin Grieve, the only two Area C candidates. By Thursday, however, the group had dropped Ellis from its list of endorsed candidates.
“We chose the name ‘mainstream’ for a very good reason, because we believe the mainstream of voters is neither left nor right,” said group member Lorne Seitz, a former B.C. Government deputy minister. He notes CV Mainstream felt some proposals from Ellis had seemed reasonable before the social media comments came to light. “We certainly don’t condone any of the statements and any of the positions that he may have taken with respect to racism and Muslim groups. Now this has come forward, so we are dropping Matthew from our list of endorsements.”
In a since-deleted Facebook comment, CV Mainstream had said they support Ellis and stand behind his response. As a fallout from the posting, some candidates who were endorsed by Mainstream have cut ties with the group.
Phil Adams, a candidate for Courtenay council, posted the following on Mainstream’s Facebook page:
“This morning I woke up to learn from my Facebook feed that a candidate who is also endorsed by Comox Valley Mainstream has made repeated racist comments over the last couple of years. I, without any reservation, denounce racism in absolutely any form including the remarks made by the candidate. I also don’t stand with any organization or group that allows this behaviour from one of its affiliates and reject their endorsement. Courtenay and the Comox Valley at large is full of love and compassion, and this show of intolerance has no place in our community and can’t be allowed in our halls of power.”