Essex residents offer 'visible hug' to community following anti-Asian tweets from town councillor

·3 min read
'Hate has no home here' signs have been handed out across Windsor-Essex and some are even being requested across the province, including Ottawa, North Bay and Parry Sound. (Submitted by Laura Soutar-Hasulo - image credit)
'Hate has no home here' signs have been handed out across Windsor-Essex and some are even being requested across the province, including Ottawa, North Bay and Parry Sound. (Submitted by Laura Soutar-Hasulo - image credit)

Essex resident Laura Soutar-Hasulo and a group of her neighbourhoods are distributing "hate has no home here" lawn signs after a town councillor came under fire for tweets calling COVID the "Chinese" flu.

Earlier this month, an integrity investigation was launched into Essex Coun. Chris Vander Doelen who sparked outrage from the community following a series of COVID--related anti-Asian tweets. Yet, despite calls from locals and other politicians, the councillor has refused to formally apologize or step down from his position.

Soutar-Hasulo says when she and others saw the tweets they were "appalled."

Though she sent a message to council and to the Ontario Commissioner of Municipal Ethics expressing her disappointment, she said she wanted to react to the negativity in a positive way.

"We just wanted to say no more, there's no room for that here, there's no place for hate," she said.

Laura Soutar-Hasulo and a group of her neighbours decided to create the signs.
Laura Soutar-Hasulo and a group of her neighbours decided to create the signs. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"It seems quite often the bad people are loud and the good people are just quietly going about their lives ... so we decided it's time we need to get loud and we need to get visible and this sign is so inclusive."

The sign isn't only about supporting the Asian community, but it's also for people of other marginalized groups, Soutar-Hasulo said.

"We love everyone. Everyone is welcome here. Everyone is equal," she said, about what she hopes the sign conveys.

So far, Soutar-Hasulo says the group has handed out 100 signs and has another 200 going out that are nearly all claimed. The signs have been requested by residents across Windsor-Essex, but she's also had outreach from people other regions in Ontario, including North Bay, Barrie and Ottawa.

Soutar-Hasulo says within 24 hours her group gave out 100 signs. She says this is a way for people to spread joy and happiness after a year that has held so much sadness and division for people.
Soutar-Hasulo says within 24 hours her group gave out 100 signs. She says this is a way for people to spread joy and happiness after a year that has held so much sadness and division for people.(Submitted by Laura Soutar-Hasulo)

"I think people are really just craving happiness. It's been a year of sadness, it's been a year of not even being able to hug your friends and this sign is a visible hug to your community," she said.

The sign was designed by James Gibb Signs in Harrow.

A Facebook page, Hate Has no Home Here Movement, has been started and Soutar-Hasulo says people can message the group to purchase a sign of their own.

At this time, the payment just covers the cost of the sign but Soutar-Hasulo says they are looking to set up donations for groups fighting hate crimes too.

Essex council says it is waiting on a report from the integrity commissioner regarding consequences for Coun. Vander Doelen. The report is expected sometime in May.

Until then, it said it is sending a letter of support to the Essex County Chinese Canadian Association, though Essex Mayor Larry Snively told CBC News that it would not include an apology.