Hate not tolerated in St. John's, mayor says in wake of New Zealand attacks

The City of St. John's has been sending out far too many messages of condolence lately, according to Mayor Danny Breen, who, along with other members of council, spoke passionately about combating intolerance and hate during Tuesday's meeting.

St. John's city council began and ended with comments of support for the Muslim community at large in the wake of a mass shooting on the other side of the globe. Fifty people were killed in a terror attack Friday that targeted mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

While messages of support like the one he sent the local Muslim community are comforting, Breen questions if it goes far enough.

"We need to work hard at making sure that the City of St. John's is inclusive, that it's welcoming and it's a place where all the residents feel that they belong."

Non-welcoming emails

Breen himself has received emails "from people who've made comments that I certainly didn't appreciate. And I know that that's not the type of thing that I want to let go."

"And I think we all have a responsibility to make sure that people realize that that's not the type of community that we have here in this."

Though not threatening, the emails, he said, were certainly not welcoming.

Sherry Vivian/CBC

"And that's not the St. John's that I know and that's not the feelings of the whole community, but those feelings are there," Breen said. 

"And I think that they need to be identified when they're brought out."

Suggestion to join anti-racism network

Meanwhile, Coun. Maggie Burton expressed her concern over reading comments on a local social media page, in which a commenter lauded the attacks in New Zealand, adding the shooter "was right to feel justified in wanting to murder Muslims."

Burton suggested that St. John's join a chorus of 75 other Canadian municipalities who work to combat racism and discrimination.

The Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, a network of the Canadian Coalition of UNESCO, works together to develop policies of inclusion.

To put action into words, Breen said leaders such as himself need to be public in his support for others and ensure the city offers inclusive programs.

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