Halifax councillor apologizes for 'Chinese fire drill' video

Halifax councillor apologizes for 'Chinese fire drill' video

Halifax regional councillor and Progressive Conservative candidate Matt Whitman is apologizing for a video he posted online last week.

In the video, Whitman is sitting in a car with another passenger. He yells, "Chinese fire drill!" and then gets out of the car. Amid laughter, he and a passenger run around the car and switch seats.

The video drew criticism on Twitter from people who felt it was racist.

'I have learned from this experience'

"I apologize for my lapse in judgment and my unintentional use of what I now understand to be an insensitive term," Whitman said on Facebook. "I never meant to offend or hurt anyone. I have learned from this experience."

Angie Zinck, issues manager and media relations advisor with the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, said Whitman notified the party on Tuesday that he was going to issue the apology on his Facebook page.

Zinck said the party supported the idea.

Police investigation

In the meantime, RCMP in Halifax say they're taking a look at the video.

"Who ever gets assigned the file they will look at that and determine whether or not it goes any further," said Cpl. Dal Hutchinson.

"It may just warrant a conversation with the individuals involved. That may the only thing that can be done in a situation like this."

Whitman pulled the video from YouTube on Sunday. He took it down "after seeing the distraction it became," he said.

Whitman went on to say he's "looking forward to campaigning with his constituents in Hammonds Plains-Lucasville."

'It's not OK'

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, who is a professor at Dalhousie University, said the expression is concerning because of its history.

"A concern that I have about the term is the racist origin and hence racist overtones," she said in an email.

The term dates back to a botched fire drill during the Second World War, according to University of King's College professor Simon Kow.

"Some people will find it offensive," he said. "It obviously taps into a stereotype about Chinese, meaning something which is chaotic, confused, incompetent, that sort of thing."

Kow, who is of Chinese descent, said in the context of more extreme comments made by public figures, the content of the video isn't surprising.

"It's not OK," he said. "People should be careful how they use language."