‘Disgusting’, ‘sick’ and ‘offensive’: First Nations residents and officials appalled by local restaurant’s pro-Russian rant

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AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION – The phone kept ringing at a small restaurant here on Saturday, but the majority of the calls were heated conversations about a pro-Russian message posted on the daily specials board and not what’s going on. was warming up on the grill.

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The Leaky Tank, a small breakfast and lunch-only truck stop in the First Nation south of Sarnia that has been accused of flouting public health rules, regularly posts controversial handwritten messages on a whiteboard under a trio of menu items.

But Friday’s statement, which claimed Russia was “denazifying” Ukraine and not occupying it, created a social media storm after photos of it surfaced online.

“I think it’s absolutely disgusting what they posted,” said Tammy Noszenko, a Sarnia resident who is married to a Ukrainian. “It’s offensive.”

A pro-Russian message was posted on the daily specials board at The Leaky Tank restaurant in Aamjiwnaang First Nation on Friday, February 25, 2022. (Screenshot)
A pro-Russian message was posted on the daily specials board at The Leaky Tank restaurant in Aamjiwnaang First Nation on Friday, February 25, 2022. (Screenshot) jpg, SO

Jeff Plain, a member of the Aamjiwnaang community, said he had “definitely” crossed the line.

“It’s (expletive) sick,” he said.

Aamjiwnaang community member Jeff Plain and Kathryn Evans hold signs supporting Ukraine Saturday, February 26, 2022 in Sarnia, Ont.  Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network
Aamjiwnaang community member Jeff Plain and Kathryn Evans hold signs supporting Ukraine Saturday, February 26, 2022 in Sarnia, Ont. Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network Photo by Terry Bridge /Terry Bridge / The Watcher

The Aamjiwnaang Band Council released a statement on Saturday saying the post was “offensive” to many people who saw it.

“Aamjiwnaang Chief and Council want to make it clear that we do not condone the message that has been delivered, and these values ​​are not in line with our council and a large majority of the community we serve,” says the press release. “Our thoughts are with those who are suffering and in danger in Ukraine, and we pray for peace.”

First Nation chief Chris Plain did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

“Bravo: Chief Plain and Aamjiwnaang Council,” Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said on Twitter in response to the statement.

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It is unclear who wrote the message at the DeGurse Drive restaurant in the shadow of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. When asked on Saturday if owner Sherry Stewart was the author, staff only said she was the owner.

A message left for Stewart was also not immediately returned. Restaurant staff said she usually doesn’t work on weekends.

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In response to the initial backlash, the restaurant posted this on his Facebook page Friday: “If you disagree with someone, hate them with everything you have!! That’s how it is these days!

But another message was added on Saturday apologizing for the ‘firestorm’ caused by the handwritten statement and asked the public to leave staff alone as they were in ‘tears’ over some of the calls they made. were receiving.

“My thoughts have nothing to do with the people who work for me and my passion has blinded me to my post and disregards everyone who may be affected,” the unattributed post said. “Leave them alone please.”

The Observer spoke to several staff working at the restaurant on Saturday. They did not want to be identified or quoted, but in general said they answered many calls that they found harassing.

A whiteboard containing daily specials at The Leaky Tank is seen here Saturday February 26, 2022 in Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Ontario.  This board posted a pro-Russian rant on Friday that created a firestorm on social media after photos of it surfaced online.  Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network
A whiteboard containing daily specials at The Leaky Tank is seen here Saturday February 26, 2022 in Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Ontario. This board posted a pro-Russian rant on Friday that created a firestorm on social media after photos of it surfaced online. Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network Photo by Terry Bridge /Terry Bridge / The Watcher

But it was a typical Saturday from a business perspective and customers were generally polite, they said.

Plain said the restaurant usually draws an anti-vaccine crowd.

“So we’ll see how much they support them,” he said. “I don’t support anyone who’s going to do (expletive) like that.”

Aamjiwnaang community member Jeff Plain and Kathryn Evans hold signs supporting Ukraine Saturday, February 26, 2022 in Sarnia, Ont.  Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network
Aamjiwnaang community member Jeff Plain and Kathryn Evans hold signs supporting Ukraine Saturday, February 26, 2022 in Sarnia, Ont. Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network Photo by Terry Bridge /Terry Bridge / The Watcher

Video previously posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page showed what appeared to be a confrontation between Stewart and a Lambton public health staff member, who attempted to inform him that it was supposed to be closed as part of a provincial closure. She responded by saying that the business is located on “sovereign” land and the rules do not apply there.

Noszenko’s husband has been a customer in the past, but he told her he was “done” eating there.

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“Same for me,” she said. “It’s very upsetting. These few days have been really difficult for all Ukrainian-Canadians and Ukrainians.

A call for a boycott of the company was included on a Reddit thread reacting to the post which drew more than 650 comments.

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@ObserverTerry

THE POST AND THE APOLOGY

A handwritten message posted Friday on The Leaky Tank read: “For your information… Russia is not occupying Ukraine, they are denazifying it. Putin (sic) spoke out against The Great Reset and called those who seek to oppress as the Satan worshipers that they are. Russia suppresses biological laboratories and the traffic of humuns (sic). He fights against the enslavement of humanity.

“She calls Ukrainians Satan worshippers? It’s crazy,” Noszenko said.

An apology with a white flag as a photo was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Saturday:

“I have no words except I’m terribly sorry. I’d like to start with The only thing I love about the past two very difficult years is how all the races have come together. Every color of skin joined together to defend freedom. What they wanted to divide turned into something very beautiful. Any sane human being understands how important freedom is. . Any sane person understands how important freedom is. harassment is not one.

I’m sorry for the firestorm my post has caused and I know there’s nothing I want more than every human being in the world has enough and feels loved every day of their lives. My thoughts have nothing to do with the people who work for me and my passion has blinded me to my position and disregarding everyone who might be affected. Please leave them alone. They don’t deserve this shit for something I did. You have them in tears from the phone calls you make and the threats people send. They do not deserve to have their lives or their families threatened. This is not how I expected this post to turn out and for that I am sorry for my post. I hope you can take this apology for what it is and we can move on.

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