Update (Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022): Since publication of this article, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce has published the full video footage of their ‘Coffee and Conversation with Municipal Candidates 2022’ events, including the comment in question. The full footage of the mayoral candidates speaking at the event can now be viewed on the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce YouTube channel.
Original article (Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022):
A controversial comment made by mayoral candidate Ivan Stoiljkovich during an online candidates meeting hosted by the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce has been called out by a fellow candidate for City Council for being “morally reprehensible.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce hosted ‘Coffee and Conversation with Municipal Candidates 2022,’ a virtual meeting moderated by the Chamber’s Bill Stewart, which invited all candidates to have the opportunity to speak, as well as to answer questions sent in by those in attendance. The first section of the event saw three of the four mayoral candidates discuss perhaps the most important subject in the city and province currently: housing.
“I told him not to leave those who created the housing crisis in charge of fixing it. I told him it would be similar to letting Nazis solve the Jewish problem. But he didn’t listen to me, he listened to those who got him elected,” Stoiljkovic said in reference to the formation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing.
This comment was immediately called out by fellow Council candidate, Jacqui Collier, as her District was next to speak on the agenda. Collier explained why in an interview with Kingstonist.
“In his pre-prepared introduction speech to the public at an All Candidates Meeting, Mayoral candidate Ivan Stoiljkovic compared the Kingston Mayor’s Task Force on Housing to Nazis and Concentration Camps. I called this out immediately when it was my turn to speak in this meeting,” said Collier, a candidate for City Council in Loyalist-Cataraqui District.
“As a citizen and Jewish woman living in Kingston, I believe it is important to call this out and speak up. It is morally reprehensible to compare the Holocaust to the efforts of our local Kingston residents and volunteers who were tasked with providing insight on housing in Kingston. The deportation of Jews to their deaths by a totalitarian, racist, antisemitic regime stands as a horrific time in modern history. It is not only disgraceful to exploit the memory of the Holocaust, but it is also dangerous. That the statement was issued by Ivan Stoiljkovic, who is someone seeking to become an elected official, makes it even more dangerous,” wrote Collier in a statement to the press.
In a further development, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce (GKCC) initially chose to remove the comments from the recorded video of the online event, which is posted on the Chamber’s YouTube channel.
“That comment was removed because we didn’t want the important content and questions or the event to be hijacked or overshadowed by Ivan’s comments and tactics. Nor do we want to spread the comment, much in the same way that we wouldn’t want to spread a racial slur or similar language. We did leave in Jacqui Collier’s response to his comment. So, that was left in so that there was context to it. We just felt that was not important for us to shed the light on his comment, to continue that conversation,” said GKCC CEO Karen Cross.
Asked if removing the comment does the electorate a disservice by taking away a demonstration of Stoiljkovic’s values and judgement as a candidate, Cross said, “I think they can draw their own conclusion there. Again, we did not want to continue to spread negative comments such as that it was not a comment that should be repeated. And if it was left in it would be constantly repeated.”
Collier said the move was not very helpful on the part of GKCC, “I told them, everyone I’ve spoken to has said, that editing it out was a was the wrong move… I’ve spoken to some people in the Jewish community and they also don’t think you should remove it.”
“Look, it’s not like a fireside chat,” Collier said, recounting her words to the Chamber, “This is somebody who wants to be our mayor. So we can’t just sweep that under the rug… people aren’t reading the copy that [GKCC] have written underneath the YouTube video [which states the video has been edited to remove Stoiljkovic’s comment]. So, they just think it’s not there… I think it would be wise to put a blank screen in the middle of his speech that says ‘section removed due to insensitive comments about Holocaust.’”
Indeed, it is hard to tell the clip has been removed. At around the 9:45 mark of the YouTube video, when Stoiljkovic is describing his first delegation to Council after Mayor Paterson was elected, the mayoral candidate said, “I told him not to leave those who created the housing crisis in charge of fixing it.” Then there is a quick cut before he finishes, “But, he didn’t listen to me, he listened to those who got him elected. He listened to his donors.”
Reached for comment, Stoiljkovic doubled down on his statement, saying that “leaving the housing crisis in the hands of landlords and developers is the same as leaving the Jews [in WW2] in the hands of the Nazis. In other words, they caused the crisis just like the Nazis caused the Holocaust so you don’t let the people who created a problem fix the problem.”
“My side of the story is that you don’t leave people in charge of creating the problem. You don’t let them resolve the problem. That’s the comparison. Now, I’m not saying that landlords or developers are putting Jews in Concentration camps; I didn’t mention Concentration camps at all. But I do think that people are dying as a result of the promises made by landlords and developers officially tasked by the mayor, through his Mayor’s Taskforce on housing and homelessness, to develop fiscal policy,” Stoiljkovic said.
“Jacqui Collier is a representative of both landlords and developers. She works with them, she is one of them. And I’m not surprised that she’s using very low smears like this in order to protect her friends’ financial interests… she sits on some boards like the Kingston Homebuilders Association, and she works for Tamarack Homes.”
He further stated that, “There is an ongoing genocide going on in our country and town. It is a genocide against Indigenous people and poor people.”
“Poor people are literally dying as a result of government policies which are, in turn, determined by Jacqui Collier’s and Mayor Paterson’s developer and landlord donors and friends. So there is actually a comparison to be made, in a sense that, you know, Sir John A. Macdonald, who started this, was a white supremacist much like Hitler,” Stoiljkovic said, noting that his own family had experienced the oppression of the Nazis.
“My grandparents were part of a resistance. Some of my relatives died in concentration camps,” he continued. “My country was ravaged by Nazis and 1.5 million Yugoslavs died.”
It should be noted for clarity that what Stoiljkovic refers to in the video as the “Mayor’s Task Force on Housing and Homelessness” was actually the “Mayor’s Task Force on Housing,” which is specifically focused on increasing the supply of all types of housing, including affordable options, but not on the issue of homelessness.
For his part, current Mayor Paterson offered a brief statement in response to Stoiljkovic’s comments leveled against his Task Force on Housing.
“We can debate and disagree on local political issues without comparing members of our community to Nazis. I think it’s incredibly important as local political candidates that we all choose to conduct ourselves with civility and respect, and reject this sort of inflammatory and toxic discourse that is both hurtful and destructive,” Paterson said in an email to Kingstonist.
Chamber of Commerce reverses decision
Later during the day on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, CEO Cross contacted Kingstonist in response to requests for a copy of the unedited footage from the Coffee and Conversation with Municipal Candidates 2022 events. In an email, Cross indicated Chamber had changed its decision and was uploading the uncut version of the events, including Stoiljkovic’s comments.
“In light of concerns raised by members of the community, we have reversed our previous decision and are posting the full Coffee and Conversation with the Municipal Candidates event, including the offensive remark made by Mayoral candidate Ivan Stoiljkovic. We apologize to those who were upset by our decision to remove the remark, which was done out of an abundance of caution and care for our community,” Cross wrote.
“We did not want the questions and issues being discussed at our event to be overshadowed by Ivan’s comment and campaign tactics. We didn’t want to spread his comment using our platforms just as we would not want to be responsible for spreading a racial slur or similar language,” the email concludes, “The video will be reposted to our YouTube channel with a content warning this afternoon.”
As of the time of publication, the video on the Chamber’s YouTube channel remained the edited version, however, Cross indicated that the full video is currently “uploading.”
This is a developing story. Kingstonist will provide further coverage if/when more information becomes available.
With files from Tori Stafford.