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North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring: the apology that never was

And the sexist joke that just won’t go away

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring published an “apology” on his Facebook page the other day. Then he thought more about it — and took it down.

It would be easy to just ignore the strange turn of events. Problem is, the apology contained several factual errors that need to be corrected.

Siebring posted the following apology July 1:

“A strange situation on FB today.
“Some of you will recall that Councillor Tek Manhas got into some trouble in some quarters a few months ago for sharing what people considered to be a ‘sexist’ meme. He promptly deleted it, and apologized.
“Council did an investigation, and found that because this was posted on his ‘personal’ FB page, rather than anything associated with Council, it did not cross the line in terms of our Code of Conduct, etc.
“Well today, it's come to my attention that some people have seen the same post on the ‘Memories’ file of my personal page.
“This is completely bizarre, on several fronts.
“First of all, I religiously review my 'memories’ every morning. Including today. And this did NOT come up.
“Which means that even if I did post it, I can't delete it. (If somebody else can find the actual link, (not a screenshot), please send it to me so I can delete it.
“Furthermore, I'm pretty sure I made a very deliberate decision not to post this meme when I first saw it, because I thought it edged ‘over the line.’
“To be clear, this isn't an outright denial that I posted it. I may have. (If you follow my personal page, you'll know that - especially since the start of COVID - I've been posting all kinds stuff to try to ‘keep things light.’ So yes, there's a possibility this one slipped through. You wouldn't believe the amount of inappropriate stuff I see and pass over...) “So to be clear, if I did post this, I shouldn't have. And I'm sorry. Period. Full stop.
“But honestly? This whole thing is a head-scratcher.”

The first error in the Mayor’s apology is that Manhas did NOT “promptly” delete the sexist joke.

The joke sat for about nine months on Manhas’ Facebook page before sixmountains.ca spotted it last March. Manhas declined to comment — and only apologized and removed the offensive joke several days later, after it blew up on social media.

Siebring’s apology also misinterprets the findings of the municipal investigation into Manhas’ post.

Manhas, in fact, had his knuckles rapped for the sexist joke.

While the post did not violate Council’s Code of Conduct, the Municipality concluded it was “not in alignment with Council’s strategic values related to inclusion and a respectful workplace.” The investigation added that Manhas “recognizes that a post of this nature does not meet the standard Council is aspiring to, related to its workplace.”

Contrary to Siebring’s version of events in his published apology, the Municipality's release on the matter also makes no issue of the fact that the meme appeared on Manhas’ personal rather than municipal Facebook page.

Politicians should know by now that they are accountable for whatever they say or do, wherever they say or do it.

Note also that when Siebring in his apology refers to Manhas getting into trouble in “some quarters” — the Municipality that Siebring represents is clearly in those quarters.

The meme depicted an elderly man holding a cigarette and can of beer and commenting: “When your woman is acting up just tell her ‘less bitchen’ more kitchen.’”

When I checked Siebring’s Facebook page a few days later I could no longer find the apology. Gone, too, was the aforementioned screenshot (dated one day after Manhas’ June 30, 2020, post) which shows Siebring writing the following comment: “Might try this. Then again, it might end up etched on my tomb…..”

What happened to the Mayor’s apology?

“I took it down,” Siebring told sixmountains.ca. “After considerable time spent on this, I couldn't find any evidence that the offending post actually existed. All I've seen is a purported screenshot, the provenance of which is unclear to me. (I also invited people to send me the actual link; there was not a single response to that invitation.)

“So there really didn't seem to be any point in leaving an ‘apology’ posted absent any evidence of an actual offence.”

It’s enough to leave us all scratching our heads.

— Larry Pynn, July 12, 2021