Mayor faces renewed pressure to remove Browaty from police board

Mayor Brian Bowman is facing renewed pressure to relieve Coun. Jeff Browaty of his duties as chair of the Winnipeg Police Board.

December comments about residential-schools education continue to haunt North Kildonan councillor

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty chairs the Winnipeg Police Board. (CBC News)

Mayor Brian Bowman is facing renewed pressure to relieve Coun. Jeff Browaty of his duties as chair of the Winnipeg Police Board.

The Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention, a city body that advises the police board, has informed members of the board it does not wish the North Kildonan councillor to continue as police chair because of comments Browaty made about the city's reconciliation efforts.

On Dec. 14, Browaty questioned the need for all city staff to receive education about the legacy of residential schools.

"Winnipeg already has an absolutely stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights," he said on the floor of council. "[Paying] employees overtime to attend this type of training, taking them away from cutting grass and providing the services we count on, I don't think that that is our position."

Browaty quickly apologized, but his comments led Bowman and a body called the Mayor's Indigenous Advisory Council to ponder the North Kildonan councillor's future as chair of the police board, which supports the city's reconciliation efforts and works with Winnipeg's Indigenous community.

The mayor's council advised Browaty to meet with elders and seek more education about residential schools. This body also advised Bowman to allow Browaty to remain as police board chair.

The Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention, however, reached the opposite decision, said Damon Johnston, who sits on both the mayor's Indigenous advisory body and the Indigenous body that advises the police board.

That led to a meeting between police board vice-chair Barry Tuckett and Bowman on Friday afternoon, said Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie, who also sits on the police board.

At that meeting, the mayor requested direction from the board in writing, Eadie said.

"It's going to be up to the mayor now," Eadie said in an interview, referring to Browaty's future on the police board.

Browaty and Tuckett could not be reached for comment. The mayor's office confirmed Bowman met with Tuckett on Friday, but stated on the subjects discussed at that meeting must be kept confidential at Tuckett's request.

Winnipeg Police Board vice-chair Barry Tuckett chaired Friday morning's board meeting in Browaty's absence. Later that day, he met with Winnipeg's mayor. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Bowman said Monday he accepts Browaty's apology and the advice from the Indigenous advisory council but refused to provide further comment.

"I respect the fact that there are going to be many different opinions on this," Bowman said. "The Indigenous Council on [Policing and Crime Prevention] does report to the police board, and should the police board want to communicate their concerns, I obviously await hearing from them."

The mayor has not received a formal, unanimous request from the police board to remove Browaty, Bowman spokesman Jonathan Hildebrand said in a statement.

"If the police board has concerns about their chair, those concerns and any recommendations associated with those concerns should be brought forward on behalf of the entire board and should be made public by the police board," Hildebrand said.

Johnston said the decision reached by the Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention was not unanimous and suggested Bowman is now "caught in the middle" between the two Indigenous advisory groups.

Johnston said he personally would like to see Browaty remain as police board chair.

"We should give him a chance. I prefer to err on the positive side of things," he said.

​Most members of council took part in a half-day training session about residential schools on Feb. 1. Browaty, who is travelling in the United States as part a three-week U.S. State Department-sponsored "resilient cities" program, was unable to attend.

He stated last week he plans to take the training session in March.


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.