Mark Andrade sat down at the Campbellford Royal Canadian Legion hall on Saturday night looking forward to a Halloween beer. Instead, he was treated to the sight of one man parading around in a Ku Klux Klan costume with a Confederate flag.
The partygoer was leading another man in blackface around the room by a noose.
Andrade left his beer on the bar and walked out. Friends told him later that the two men had won first prize at the Legion’s Halloween costume competition.
“This is 2010,” said Andrade, who is black. “That’s unacceptable, especially in a Legion. A Legion, of all places.”
Joy Herrington, president of the Legion, issued an apology on Tuesday.
“As president of Branch 103 Campbellford of the Royal Canadian Legion, I humbly apologize to all those offended by the events that took place at our Halloween party on October the 30th, 2010. The events in no way reflect the views of the royal Canadian legion or its members. Those responsible have been spoken to.”
Meanwhile, the man who did this was interviewed by the Welland Tribune and issued a classic non-apology.
The man who dressed up as Ku Klux Klan member for Halloween in small town Ontario insists he isn't prejudiced and meant no harm.
But in retrospect, Blair Crowley said Tuesday, it may have been a bad choice.
Crowley wore a white KKK robe and hood with a Confederate flag attached to his back when he attended the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 103 annual Halloween party Saturday night in Campbellford, a small town northeast of Toronto.
A friend, in full blackface, wore a red and black-checkered shirt and jeans and had a string tied to his arm.
"It wasn't meant to be anything racist. I'm not prejudiced. It was a Halloween costume, it was a joke," said Crowley, adding that his best friend is black.
[. . .]
Crowley, who lives in nearby Hastings, said it's getting blown out of proportion.
"That stuff (slavery) has been gone for years and years and years. I don't see why the reaction is the way it is. That's so past tense. It's a piece of history from long ago," he said.
"I'm sure it was probably in bad taste after the fact. But there was no disrespect by it. People need to worry about something other than that."
Clearly some people found the costume humorous because he and his friend were given an award at the party, Crowley said.
Crowley also said he hasn't been contacted by anyone at the legion, despite the president stating "those responsible have been spoken to."
Northumberland County, to which Campbellford belongs, doesn't seem that unusual. It is a substantially rural area, with rates of population growth and levels of employment and income somewhat but not substantially below Ontarian norms, with relatively fewer one-person households. The county does stand out in its relative homogeneity: nearly seventy-eight of its seventy-nine thousand people use English most frequently at home, most of the county's immigrants (one-tenth of the total) came before 1991, and being predominantly of a few backgrounds: Chinese, South Asian, Korean, Black, Filipino, Latin American. Northhumberland County's political complexion is unremarkable, tending towards the Liberal Party. There doesn't appear to be anything visibly wrong with it, in short.
How could someone have possibly thought this could be acceptable? And at the local Legion, no less! In smaller towns like Campbellford, the Legion is often the main public space, its property and halls rented out to community groups. What does it say about this community that this sort of thing can happen, and that it wouldn't have been noticed but for someone who came from outside the community says something, I mentioned in last night's History and Futility post that the Legion can act as a repository for memory. Clearly, it can do so in multiple ways.