Littman is a well-known hate crimes watchdog with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. He made the statement during a news conference in Vancouver last week. He was talking about the work of Fairview Technology, an Internet provider in Oliver that has several clients who distribute what is considered hate literature.
Response to Littman's comments was immediate. Larson was outraged - and the whole community with her. She publicly voiced her anger, demanding a public apology.
In his letter to Larson, dated Jan. 19, Littman says, "I can readily understand why the good people of Oliver, British Columbia, would be upset at having their town characterized as the 'hate capital of Canada', and I have no hesitation in apologizing to the citizenry for having described the town in that way."
Littman added that he "considered it obvious the whole community could not be held responsible for the sins of one Internet provider and his clients."
"Unfortunately, through no fault of the vast majority of the citizens of Oliver, a single Internet provider, located on the outskirts of your town has allowed Oliver to become the hub of hate messaging in Canada."
Larson appreciates Littman's letter, but she says she "did not feel his apology was sincere". She says the council of the Town of Oliver, as with most people in Canada, appreciates the work of the Wiesenthal Centre in combatting racism and hatred in our society. By labelling an entire community as a "hate capital", based on the actions of one person, however, Mr. Littman has engaged in the very thing - assigning guilt by association - that his organization is supposed to be fighting against.
Larson says she's received a number of calls supporting the community's stand. A lot have been from groups known for fighting racism. She says they were horrified by Littman's tactics.
The damage done to the community's image may not be easily swept under the carpet. Larson says it's up to them (the community) to decide what to do. "We can only take action on behalf of the citizens."
In a press release issued Jan. 19, Oliver Town Council said they have "not ruled out the option of pursuing legal action on behalf of our community residents against Mr. Littman and the Wiesenthal Centre."