Skip to content

Human Rights complaint launched against Sarnia City Councillor

Coun. Bill Dennis

The director of the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society has launched two formal complaints against a Sarnia city councillor whose recent social media comments about diverse hiring practices have prompted backlash from local social service agencies.

Dawn Flegel says she has filed complaints with both the Integrity Commissioner and Human Rights Commission following comments by Coun. Bill Dennis criticizing a recruitment ad posted to the agency’s Facebook page last week.

The job posting, seeking child protection workers, invited applicants who identify as Indigenous, Black, racialized, 2SLGBTQ+, and bilingual-french speaking.

Dennis took issue with the post, sharing to his Facebook page, adding: “This type of discrimination disgusts me. 

“When I’m Mayor, all City hiring will be based on merit,” he added. “And we will never grant money to organizations like this who practice discriminatory hiring practices. I will restore common sense and kick woke craziness out of City Hall.”

Flegel said she quickly became aware of the post, calling it “harmful and damaging.”

“And quite uninformed,” she added. “We’re saying how important it is to have our staff reflect the diverse population that we serve… [Dennis’ words] undermine that work that we’re trying to do.

“It even undermines the law,” Flegel continued. “It's the law that we are to have staff that are diverse; we can’t discriminate and have only white staff working for us, which is what we had historically.”

In response, the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society followed up with a post pointing to the importance of hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds.

“When children, youth and families see people who look like them, or share similar experiences and cultural backgrounds, it increases trust and confidence in the services provided,” read the post, that was widely shared by local social service agencies and organizations.

Coun. Dennis said he stands by his statements, calling the recruitment practices ‘harmful.’

“I find that stuff very divisive,” he told The Journal. “All it does is just divide us, it doesn’t bring us together — that’s how I look at it.

“Some folks just immediately think, ‘Bill Dennis is a misogynist; Bill Dennis is a racist… nothing could be further from the truth,” he added. "As a former business owner, I would hire the best person regardless of any gender, colour, sexual orientation, disability…I believe in the best person getting the job.”

Flegel also outlined her concerns in a letter to the editor, co-signed by, the Sarnia-Lambton Social Services Network – made up of 40 local organizations. 

That follows an April 2024 letter sent to Lambton County and Sarnia City councils, in which Flegel expressed concerns about Coun. Dennis’ comments about homelessness in Sarnia at the time.


“We are shocked that an elected county and municipal politician, Mr. Bill Dennis, has now repeatedly spoken about those who are living with poverty in the most degrading, and ignorant terms,” Flegel wrote in the letter, co-signed by several CAS staff and board members. 

She pointed to council’s code of conduct which sets out expectations of all Council members ‘and the duty to treat members of the public, one another, and staff with respect and courtesy and not make discriminatory comments.’

“We are appalled that Mr. Dennis uses his position of power on both Municipal and County Councils to express his uninformed and harmful views and vicious attacks on individuals and groups who do not align with him. This is the opposite of leadership and is damaging to those groups and individuals who are struggling for equity, and a sense of belonging.

"What is particularly disturbing is that Mr. Dennis not only disrupts Council meetings but that this sends a message that somehow this is acceptable and normal behaviour.”

The letter called for council members to be held accountable to the code of conduct, and that a clear process be put in place whereby anyone in the community can submit a complaint about such behaviours and be informed about the outcome.

“We also ask that diversity training be mandated for all elected officials,” she wrote.

Flegel said she received no response from City or County officials.

“I have filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner, because I feel he’s in violation of the code of conduct for council members,” Flegel said. “I’ve also filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.”

Dennis maintains he has received plenty of support over his post.

“There’s more people that agree with me than agree with her,” he said. “There’s the silent majority that won’t say it because they don’t want to be cancelled; they don’t want to have people boycott their businesses. But I can tell you right now, the amount of people who email, come up to me, and say good for you, shake my hand, we’re behind you...This woke nonsense has gone way too far.”

When asked about the most recent complaints filed against him, Dennis — who has been the subject of several integrity commissioner complaints — replied,

“That’s fine."

“Tell her to join the club and get in line.”


[email protected]

Join the Community: Receive Our Daily News Email for Free