‘Whites-only’ sign for a playgroup in Coquitlam draws outrage

The City of Port Coquitlam and Mayor Brad West said the posters advertising the whites-only group for mothers and children were ‘vile garbage’

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By the time Port Coquitlam resident Syreeta Moore saw the social media posts about a “Whites-only Moms and Tots” group, most of the posters pinned up at bus stops and at shopping malls had been taken down.

But her anger lingered Monday.

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“I was really upset because my daughter is 20 years old. This is her community that she was raised in and that sign was a block away from my house,” said Moore.

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A group calling itself “White Tri-cities Parents and Tots” posted the signs advertising a play group for mothers and children to “join other proud parents of European children as we create an atmosphere in which our kids feel like they belong.”

They included a QR code to an account on the messaging app, Telegram. It had attracted about 200 members before it was shut down. Some discussed support for the group and getting together in person.

Moore’s friend Tara Preece joined the group and took screenshots of some of the online conversations.

“It makes me very angry this is happening. I love Canada for the very reason they are hating on. It’s terrible,” Preece said.

On Sunday, one thread from the group itself said: “Hello everybody, we are encouraged by the response already and hope you can hang in there until we are all comfortable going in person.”

Moore said she initially thought it might just be one person, “just one jerk out there, stirring the pot, causing division. I took the time to look deeper. My friend took the time to add herself to the page. And this is organized. This is structured. This took some time and effort.”

Syreeta Moore
Syreeta Moore Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Moore said that as a Black housing advocate and parent of a young athlete who faced racism as she pursued national-level competition, she knows “this exists, but to see it like this, is different.”

In a joint statement about what it described as a “hate-motivated incident,” the City of Port Coquitlam and Mayor Brad West said the posters advertising a “whites-only” group for mothers and children were “vile garbage.”

“As soon as it was brought to our attention, bylaw officers immediately searched the area and all bus stops, but no signs were present. Perhaps removed by someone else in the community,” said the statement.

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The same statement said Coquitlam RCMP were aware of the incident and encouraged anyone with information to contact police at 604-945-1550, using the file number 23-25827.

Coquitlam RCMP said in the statement it collects reports on hate-motivated incidents in response to the rise in cases motivated by hate based on race, gender or sexual orientation. It described these incidents as “when a person is targeted by another person motivated by hate in a way that is not a criminal offence.”

The City of Coquitlam said in another news release that the posters were racist because they “explicitly exclude” certain groups based on their race, and they have no place in the city.

“It’s a flashpoint right now. We’re seeing a real surge of hatefulness based on characteristics, protected characteristics, of groups that historically have been discriminated against and marginalized,” said Margot Young, a professor at the University of B.C.’s Allard School of Law, who specializes in constitutional and social justice law. “And it seems that people are feeling more empowered and emboldened to come out and say sentiments that are destructive of a just and fair society.”

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Young said she thinks this incident would fall under Section 7 of the Human Rights Code under B.C. law, which covers discriminatory publications. It says that a “person must not publish, issue or display, or cause to be published, issued or displayed, any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a group or a class of persons.”

Police cannot bring charges based on the Human Rights Code. An individual who is discriminated against or subject to discriminatory speech, or someone else representing that interest, brings a complain to the Human Rights Tribunal.

There are exemptions in the code where a party could say it was not intending to discriminate and it just wanted to have its own gathering, said Young.

Section 41 of the code allows for clubs and groups such as “charitable, philanthropic, educational, fraternal, religious” non-profit organizations to exist for the primary purpose of promoting the interest and welfare of an identifiable group. The exemption specifies that an organization or corporation must not be contravening the code.

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“That would be hard to fit this into, but it might. That would be their defence, ” said Young.

Postmedia reached out to the group’s organizers by email but did not get a response.

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