Ontario vegetable growers board member resigns after racist comment about Highbury Canco

Ontario vegetable growers board member resigns after racist comment about Highbury Canco

A former regional director of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers recently resigned after referring to the owners of Highbury Canco in Leamington as "Wynne's East Indian friends."

A letter written by the company's CEO Sam Diab to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture outlines the offensive language that was used by Jim Poel in an email to a tomato grower. In the letter, he suggests the company has no interest in the well-being of rural Ontario and "solid farm families."

The letter, along with other official documents discussing the racist words, were obtained by CBC.

In the message, which was dated Feb. 22, Diab describes the OPVG board as "fraught with racism, bigotry and disdain for HCC."

In a statement, Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal confirmed he was aware of a "situation" involving "discriminatory comments" made by a former OPVG board member.

"I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the opinions and comments expressed by this individual," he wrote. "There is no place for discriminatory speech of this nature — it will absolutely not be tolerated in Ontario, nor in our agri-food sector."

Resignation happened before board fired

News of the discriminatory email comes just days after the entire OPVG board was fired by the provincial government.

Former Ontario minister of agriculture Elmer Buchanan, who has taken over the board, confirmed an OPVG member had resigned, but said the incident happened "well-before" all of the board members were removed from their positions.

Leal also stated his decision to ditch the board members was "not in response to any one individual's comments or coundct." Instead, Leal said he acted to protect this year's tomato crop because negotiations were at a "critical impasse" and families rely on the industry for their living.