The last two weeks have been action-filled for Summerland’s Mayor Toni Boot.
During Monday night’s (July 27) council meeting, she released her mayor’s report, detailing what she has been doing as of late.
She spoke about the traumatic incident that happened to the Lekhi family on the night of July 13, when their home was spray-painted with vulgar and racist images and a window was broken.
“Although the Lekhis bore the brunt of the attack, the community of Summerland was also negatively impacted by what is being investigated as a hate crime,” she said.
The next day, hundreds of residents showed up at a parade to support the Lekhi family. There, someone was spotted waving a bandana with a Confederate flag print on it. The next night, Boot received a message from the district’s RCMP detachment, saying that the man wanted to apologize for his actions, which was when she found out where he bought the bandana.
On July 18, Boot and two of her close friends went to Your Dollar Store with More.
“I offered to purchase the bandanas, but the shop keeper gave them to me. My friends and I destroyed them. I knowingly put myself in a place of criticism.”
“My actions, done as the mayor of Summerland, were an overt and public display of anti-racism in reaction to an overt and public display of racism earlier in the week. The Confederate flag is a contributing factor to displays of racism… the Confederate flag is a universal symbol of hate, just like the swastika. Both have been coopted by white supremacy groups.” Boot said.
Boot attended the coronation for Summerland’s youth ambassador program on July 17, where eight female students and one male student participated in the bid to be the district’s youth representatives.
Boot also gave the 2019 Mayor’s Award of Excellence to Pat Gartrell, Karen Hooper, Leanne Sieben and Caroline McKay.
On July 21, Boot and Logan Lake mayor Robin Smith were guest speakers at the Southern Interior Local Government Association, where they spoke about how the pandemic has impacted local government budgets.
During the time for public comment, a Summerland resident voiced her opposition to what Boot has done with the bandanas.
“Mr. and Mrs. Carter have not only been members of this community for several years, they have also supported many community events. They’re courteous and respectful to their customers and will often go out of their way to assist the customer… I feel that they were subjected to treatment by the mayor that was not only humiliating but also discouraging,” she said.
“(The Confederate flag) a part of American history and removing statues and destroying flags or Confederate bandanas will not alter or erase history. It should not be about Black Lives Matter, it should be All Lives Matter.”
Peachland mayor Cindy Fortin lent her support during the meeting, saying some may not like how she handled the situation, but that they need to understand why Boot did it.
“The Confederate flag is a stark symbol of hate, racism, slavery, hangings, shootings, and beatings of innocent people of colour and it is a proud emblem of white supremacy… most of us don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a person of colour and what she and others had to endure,” Fortin said.
“There is no place for this symbol of hate in Summerland, our province, our country or beyond. Racism not only impacts individuals, and the Lekhi family, but the entire community and I ask that Mayor Boot not be penalized for standing up against racism. Instead, she should be commended.”