Leroux released a statement condemning the assault on Tuesday morning after the boy’s mother told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation she no longer felt safe in the community.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are investigating the incident, which according to a social media post started when the boy and a friend passed two white boys their age while cycling on September 22.
The post said one of the boys they passed repeatedly called him the N-word. When his friend asked the boys to stop, they attacked the black child, hitting him in a leg with a scooter and jumping on his arm. The boy’s arm was broken in two places.
Leroux described the attack as “unacceptable” and said the community needed to discuss the violence.
“Some will say this was one incident and does not reflect who we are as a community,” he said. “As a community, we must be better. We must be willing to confront racism and bullying in all its forms. It takes a village to raise a child, and the children in our community rely on our community to make their future better.”
The incident followed a petition calling for Russell Township to be renamed due to its namesake’s ties to slavery and the anti-abolition movement. The council voted in July to retain the name, but to renounce Peter Russell, opting to adopt a more suitable namesake. At the same meeting, council voted to establish a community, diversity, equity and inclusion committee to advise the township.
Leroux said the four members of the public had been chosen to join him on the committee last week. A remote meeting will soon be scheduled for the new group. The terms of reference for town name’s “rededication,” meanwhile, will soon be put before council for approval.
Leroux said the process was moving slower than he would have hoped due to COVID-19 restrictions and the budget preparation. But he said the he was dedicated to ensuring the township was welcoming to all.
“We will not repeat the past. We must confront the harsh reality in our community,” Leroux said. “Let us lead through example, compassion and the understanding that we are all equal.”