Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Old campaign poster sparks complaint


An old Rocco Rossi mayoral campaign poster has sparked a human rights complaint at Toronto City Hall.

The Rossi poster, which draws on the mob movie Goodfellas, hangs on the side of a fridge in a common lounge area in the City Hall press gallery where several media outlets, including the Toronto Sun, have offices.

Based on a complaint to the city’s human rights office, City of Toronto officials asked the press gallery to remove the poster this week, calling the poster “offensive.”

In an e-mail to press gallery president Dave Nickle, Irina Fofanova from the city’s real estate services outlined the complaint was based on the fact the poster was facing out into the City Hall hallway, “clearly visible to anyone who walks by.”

“The complainant indicates that the poster is degrading and derogatory to people of Italian descent,” Fofanova wrote. “Although Rossi used these poster(s) to promote himself, it doesn’t mean they can’t be offensive to people because of negative stereotypes based on place of origin or ethnic origin, two protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights code and the City’s Human Rights and Anti-harassment Policy, thereby creating a poisoned work environment. The City should not condone these posters in the workplace.”

Nickle called the poster a piece of election memorabilia.

“Having spoken to members of the gallery, we’re not convinced this is actually offensive,” Nickle said. “It’s a play on an old movie.”

For now, Nickle said the press gallery will try to keep the door closed.

He said he is still waiting for a better explanation from the city to justify the request to take the poster down.

“If I can be convinced and if this is, in fact, a racist and stereotypical image, we’ll obey the ruling of the city,” Nickle said.

City spokesman Wynna Brown said the real estate services division received a complaint about the poster from an individual who was offended by it and contacted the press gallery to “see if they would consider taking it down.”

Rossi, who dropped out of the mayor’s race before last fall’s election, unveiled the poster in September 2010 as part of a bid to revive his campaign.

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