The Black Advocacy Coalition Up North (BACupNorth) posted a statement on its Facebook page, Nov. 2 condemning comments City of Yellowknife Coun. Niels Konge made during a city committee meeting the day before.
The advocacy group is demanding a public apology from Konge after he compared limiting access to public spaces for people who choose not to be vaccinated to past segregation policies barring Black people from sitting at the front of pubic transit.
“We are shocked and disappointed that Coun. Konge found it appropriate to make such a comparison,” the statement reads.
It says comments of this ilk “reveal a severe lack of understanding of the issues that Black people faced and perpetuates the inequities and discrimination that Black people continue to experience today.”
BACupNorth closed the statement saying it “demands that Coun. Konge give a public apology to the Black community immediately and that he educates himself to a better understanding on the issues racialized communities face prior to making future comments.”
When Yellowknifer reached Konge for comment at 4:40 pm on Nov. 2, Konge said he had yet to see the news release from BACupNorth, as he was travelling, but said he had already directed the City of Yellowknife to issue an apology.
“There’s an apology that’s coming out, if it hasn’t already,” Konge said. “I asked the city to put it out.”
Yellowknifer asked the city for details about the atonement, including when Konge requested the apology be issued and the nature of its contents, but a city spokesperson said, “It is the City of Yellowknife’s understanding that Coun. Konge will be issuing an apology in relation to comments he made at yesterday’s Governance and Priorities Committee meeting.”
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty posted on Facebook, Nov. 2, condemning the comments.
“In yesterday’s discussion about whether to implement a proof of vaccine policy for city facilities, there was a comparison to racist policies and segregation. Comparing a policy on public health measures to a racist policy is completely unacceptable,” Alty’s statement reads. “Public health measures are put in place for the health and safety of residents. People may disagree about whether the measures are effective, but the intent of the policy is the health and safety of residents. The same cannot be said for racist policies, and the severity and harm of racist policies and segregation is not comparable.”