North Saanich Coun. Brett Smyth has submitted his resignation effective immediately after he called the mayor “Mister Hitler” in a March 20 council meeting.
Council was receiving the Mayor’s Official Community Plan Advisory Commitee & Working Group Members when Smyth turned on his mic to start speaking. He was calling for the meetings of these committees to be livestreamed for the public.
Smyth then said it is important for accountability to have the meetings livestreamed, and implied not doing so would be beneficial to the mayor.
“You (the mayor) can do whatever you want, because you’ve set that up in that way, in a very political way,” Smyth said.
“I beg your pardon,” Mayor Peter Jones interrupted. “Can you please refrain from making those statements? It is not a political approach. It’s a practical approach to getting the new version of the OCP done. So please refrain from referring to political approaches.”
“I cannot refrain from the truth,” Smyth replied.
Since the item was to be received for information only, Jones said council would move on to the next agenda item, which is when Smyth cut in with, “thank you, Mister Hitler.”
Smyth told CHEK News he is not yet ready to discuss his resignation, but will reach out “when the time is right.”
In an interview, Jones said he did not react to the comment in the meeting because he felt it was best to talk later.
“The Hitler comment was sudden, out of the blue, it was a comment I certainly didn’t appreciate, but I didn’t react to it at that time, I felt it was best to talk with him after the council meeting,” Jones said. “It was a comment that was made, I think, in the heat of the moment. It shouldn’t have been made.”
“I would have asked him, and I would have asked him for an apology, and he did give me an apology that I accepted. But I would also have looked for him to come in front of the council the next time and give a public apology for making that statement.”
Jones says he is disappointed that this led to Smyth’s resignation.
“I don’t know if that was the only reason why he resigned,” Jones said. “He’s got over four years experience on council, when we, the majority of councillors including myself, are new, we needed his experience, and that experience is now lost, which is a pity…I do wish he had stayed and not resigned, but it’s done now. So we have to follow through on the processes that are in place.”
This is not the first time the pair have butted heads. In November, Black Press reported that the two clashed over what Smyth again called political posturing in November. Then Smyth said the mayor’s mandate is not legitimate in December, according to Black Press.
Smyth’s latest comment has led to his resignation.
“It has not been an easy decision, but one made necessary, but not specifically, in light of my off‐handed comment at a recent Council meeting,” Smyth said in his resignation letter. “I would have preferred a more positive environment at the Municipal Hall but when all voices are not respected, then it is difficult to practice the patience required of an elected official.”
This was Smyth’s second term, after he was first elected in 2018, then re-elected in 2022.
The district says details of a byelection to replace Smyth will be released soon.
Casual use of “Hitler” trivializes harm done in Holocaust
Kristin Semmens, an associate professor of history at the University of Victoria who specializes in German history over the 20th century, says casually comparing someone to Adolf Hitler or calling someone a Nazi trivializes the actual history.
“I think the danger of making these kinds of comparisons is totally trivializing who Adolf Hitler actually was. It’s sort of in keeping with the way we use the term Nazis too often, without really thinking about the historical parallels to who the actual Nazis were,” Semmens said.
“I think it’s probably exciting and titillating to use such language, but in terms of the political arena, Hitler was a dictator, who was trodding on the rights of Germans and then Europeans across the continent.”
“So the idea that a mayor in sort of normal civil discourse would be referred to in this way is just false, and it trivializes the impact that Adolf Hitler actually had.”
Semmens, who recently published Under the Swastika in Nazi Germany, says casually making these comparisons may seem small, but they have real impacts.
“Even though it might seem like trivial, it’s actually really dangerous,” Semmens said. “It makes Hitler something to laugh at and that’s a slippery slope as well.”