Black advocates seek apology from councillor who compared vaccine mandates to racial segregation

·2 min read
Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge is being scrutinized over his comparison of vaccine mandates to racial segregation of Black people in public spaces such as public transit. (Submitted - image credit)
Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge is being scrutinized over his comparison of vaccine mandates to racial segregation of Black people in public spaces such as public transit. (Submitted - image credit)

The Black Advocacy Coalition is demanding that Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge publicly apologize for comparing vaccine mandates in public facilities to the historic racial segregation of Black people.

Councillors were discussing a proof-of-vaccine policy at city facilities to allow greater capacity on Monday, when Coun. Niels Konge compared it to policies that relegated Black people to the back of the bus.

He said that the N.W.T. government's policies have created "classes of people."

In response, the coalition demanded that Konge publicly apologize to the Black community and educate himself on issues facing racialized communities.

"Black people faced racial segregation for nearly a century," the coalition said in a news release, and were subject to "oppression, abuse, physical, emotional and social violence based on the colour of their skin."

This treatment included systematic exclusion, and denial of equal access to opportunity and services based on race, the release states.

"The comparison between a century of racial segregation and a vaccine policy that would temporarily exclude unvaccinated individuals from community facilities is inaccurate, misinformed, and tone deaf," the release states.

The coalition said it was "shocked and disappointed" by Konge and said his remarks demonstrate a "severe lack of understanding" of issues facing Black people that "perpetuates the inequities and discrimination that Black people continue to experience today."

"It is unacceptable for an individual serving a community that consists of Black, Indigenous and other racialized groups to be repeatedly misinformed of their histories," the news release states.

A month ago, Konge compared the experience of businesses during COVID-19 to the Sixties Scoop and later apologized.

The CBC has reached out to Coun. Konge for his response to the coalition's call for an apology and education on these histories.

Mayor Rebecca Alty made a public statement on Facebook Tuesday, arguing that "comparing a policy on public health measures to a racist policy is completely unacceptable."

In response to commenters' questions about how councillors who make such remarks can be held accountable, Alty said, "If you feel that a Council member is not adhering to the Council Code of Conduct, you can file a complaint."

"We all have differing views on how the pandemic should be managed, but our discussions must remain respectful and productive," Alty wrote.

The vaccine mandate policy, which would allow greater capacity at public facilities for activities such as team sports, will be considered by council Nov. 8.

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