St. Catharines councillor denies he’s anti-Semitic

Andy Petrowski

Andy Petrowski, a Niagara regional councillor in St. Catharines, Ont., says he’s not anti-Jewish and only posted an anti-Semitic video on Twitter to “highlight the Donald Trump portion of the link.”

“There was a video within a video. I didn’t pay attention [to the part about Jews], and the Trump part appears quickly,” Petrowski, who has since removed the video from Twitter, told The CJN.

The video, which Petrowski linked to in a message he tweeted at U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Nov. 20, was made by “Brother Nathanael Kapner,” a self-styled “street evangelist” and Jew-turned Orthodox Christian whose website Real Jew News features posts on a wide swath of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.   

Titled “The Obama Hoax Finally Revealed,” the video begins with Kapner attributing U.S. President Barack Obama’s election to a plan hatched by “a group of wealthy Chicago Jews back in the ’90s.” Kapner goes on to list “Obama’s Jewish handlers” before the video cuts to Trump criticizing Obama for what he calls a lack of transparency.

At a regional budget committee meeting Dec. 1, Petrowski himself put forward a motion to hire an integrity commissioner to monitor the conduct of regional councillors. The motion will be put to a vote at the Dec. 8 council meeting.

If it passes, the new commissioner’s purview would include incidents dating back to Nov. 1, so complaints about Petrowski’s tweet could be considered.

“I’ve been clear: I don’t support having an integrity commissioner, but I [proposed the motion] to give councillors who choose a vehicle to make a complaint… I think I’ll be exonerated [for the tweet] and that it’s a waste of taxpayer money,” Petrowski said.

Harold Nash, president of St. Catharines’ Congregation B’nai Israel, said a reporter from the St. Catharines Standard notified the synagogue about Petrowski’s tweet.

Nash confirmed that, as Grant LaFleche of the Standard reported Nov. 24, he subsequently reached out to Niagara regional Chair Alan Caslin asking him to censure Petrowski.

Petrowski, an avowed Trump supporter, told The CJN that the notion he’s anti-Semitic was fabricated by his “political enemies in St. Catharines,” especially the Standard, which he referred to as “fish wrapper,” and specifically LaFleche, who Petrowski said is “an atheist [who] loves to bash me for my Christian faith.”

Petrowski noted that he emailed LaFleche after the reporter’s story ran, explaining that he’d only meant to highlight “the Trump portion of the link.”

Petrowski stressed: “As a Christian believer, I have a fond affection for the Jewish community. My most favourite relative in North America was an Orthodox Jew in New York City.”

St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik told The CJN the Standard also notified his office about Petrowski’s tweet and that he is extremely upset by it.

“This is not new to this individual,” Sendzik said. “This is the latest example of the kind of vitriol and hate-mongering he’s been known to do as an elected official.”

Last summer, Caslin sought an apology from Petrowski for a tweet calling gay pride “a sin,” and in 2015, Petrowski drew criticism for a controversial tweet about same-sex marriage.

Sendzik said Petrowski’s views don’t reflect the wider St. Catharines community. “It’s frustrating because as a council… we can say he should be removed, but there are few mechanisms within the municipal act to remove him from council,” the mayor said.

Sendzik said he believes Caslin should take “a leadership role” and pass a motion Dec. 8 to remove Petrowski from council committees unless he agrees to take sensitivity training.

“We don’t need or want Trump politics here,” Sendzik added.

Caslin told The CJN he couldn’t comment on Petrowski’s conduct, but said, “I don’t support racism of any kind.”

He said an integrity commissioner would have the power to recommend sanctions that he himself doesn’t have.

He added that his approach to leadership is “not reactionary… I don’t take advice by reading tweets or opinion columns… my leadership style is… to get an end result we can all work behind, without the distraction of the press.”