Mayor Don Atchison said there was no malice in a statement issued by his office in the wake of the Orlando massacre.
A release issued Monday around 12:18 p.m. contained the phrase “lifestyle choice” to describe members of the LGBT community.
“Everyone should be safe in our communities regardless of their lifestyle choices, religion or ethnicity,” a portion of the statement read.
Atchison said Tuesday he was aware of the release, and had spoken to his communications officer about what was to be included, but the final wording was not vetted by him.
“What we were trying to do was, in fact, embrace the entire community; building bridges as opposed to tearing things down,” he said.
The mayor’s communications officer apologized Monday, saying the comment was a poor choice of words.
“There was certainly no malice or intent whatsoever there; that was the last thing that would ever come to anyone’s mind,” Atchison said.
The mayor said he did not see the release before it went out, and reiterated the error is regrettable.
An amended statement was sent more than four hours later, around 4:36 p.m., stating, “Members of the LGBTQ2 community, those with different religious beliefs, or ethnicity should be safe in our communities.”
On Tuesday, Coun. Darren Hill said while he agrees the statement wasn’t released with ill-intent, the word choice makes a strong case for how much education is still needed on the issue.
“My immediate reaction was that’s an ignorant comment, it’s an insensitive statement, and it speaks to the lack of knowledge and understanding of the LGBTQ community,” Hill said.
The councillor said he received an “outpouring of concern and anger” from the LGBTQ community and allies at the use of the statement.
Fellow Coun. Zach Jeffries has also spoken out in the media about how the release could have been made with such wording.
“I think when a communication is going out with somebody’s name on it, they should take full responsibility for it no matter who penned it,” Hill said.
The councillor said he’s calling for a review of the city’s diversity and inclusion policy, not just because of this issue, but also because the city missed having its regular presence at the community fair at Pride.
“That was not any intentional action on anybody’s part at all within our administration, it was simply an oversight,” he said, adding an apology has been sent to Pride organizers.
When asked if the city’s policy should be revisited, Atchison said, “not only that, bullying and that needs to be visited too. I think there’s certainly a lot of things in that area that certainly need to be dealt with.”
Atchison was not present at a candlelight vigil held in honour of the 49 innocent victims of the Orlando shooting held at Saskatoon City Hall on Sunday night.
Here’s the complete, amended, statement released by Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison on June 13, 2016:
“I was shocked and saddened at the tragedy in Orlando, Florida. Once again the world stands united against an act of terrorism and hate. Today we grieve for the victims and offer our condolences to their families and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are also with those who are in the hospital recovering from the attack.
Members of the LGBTQ2 community, those with different religious beliefs, or ethnicity should be safe in our communities. Acts of terrorism and hate must not divide us rather we must unite as a community against them.”
Flags on civic buildings, already at half-mast, will now take on additional significance. The City of Saskatoon will follow the protocols established by the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada to determine timing.