The mayor of Ottawa, Canada, awoke Sunday morning to find a homophobic slur plastered on the street outside his home. Mayor Jim Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA he initially didn’t notice the hateful graffiti, but a neighbor reported the crime to police who quickly announced they are investigating the incident as both an act of vandalism and a hate crime.
“I'd seen in the morning, some scrawl, and I didn't pay much attention to it because I was on my way out to some other event,” Watson said. “I walked by it and it just looked like a bunch of graffiti. My neighbor pointed out that I was looking at it upside down.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted he was “appalled” with the perpetrators and expressed his support of Mayor Watson as he faced down bigotry and hate.
“There is no place for this ignorant or inexcusable hate in this city – or anywhere in our country,” Trudeau declared, reassuring the embattled mayor that his fellow “Canadians across the country are standing with you.”
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly tweeted his force has zero tolerance for “all acts of hate” and that the city’s “Hate Crimes Unit has been fully engaged.” Sloly promised a full investigation.
“It was a little disconcerting,” Watson admitted. “You go home and you want to feel safe and comfortable in your own home.”
The mayor also made clear he knows he’s “not the only one” to be a victim of bigotry and homophobic hate.
“There’s, unfortunately, such an increase in hate crimes,” Watson lamented. “We’ve seen it in Ottawa and we've seen it around the world.”
Watson said he understands that being a “big city” with “over a million people” also means there is a small “percentage of people who have a lot of hate in their heart and want to do harm through words or actions” against those who are different in their eyes.
The 59-year-old mayor has been serving the people as an elected official in Ottawa since 1991 when he was first elected to the city council. This is his second stint as mayor, having first represented the city from 1997 to 2000. He was elected again in 2010, and has been reelected to office twice since.
Watson came out as gay in an essay published in 2019. At the time he wrote that his sexuality “was not an issue” and that it came up only once during his 2003 reelection campaign when a “known homophobic activist” asked point blank if Watson was gay. His opponent in the race, Marlene Rivier, stood up and quickly shut down the homophobic questioner by stating that Watson’s “sexual preference had nothing to do with being a good MPP.”
Watson remained defiant in the face of the homophobic graffiti and larger struggle against hate crimes, saying “we just have to stand up against this kind of unacceptable behavior.” He also struggled to understand why some people are so filled with hatred.
“You know I often wonder why someone would go to that much trouble to be that hateful,” Watson pondered.