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More anti-racism training coming, says Yellowknife mayor after councillor apologizes for racist comments

The announcement comes after a councillor informally apologized for his comments made earlier this week comparing a proof-of-vaccine policy for city facilities to historical segregation of Black people.

Rebecca Alty says a complaint about Niels Konge has been filed to the city's integrity commissioner

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty speaks with CBC in a June 2020 file photo. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Yellowknife's mayor says more anti-racism training for city councillors is coming in the new year.

She made the comments after a councillor apologized for comments made earlier this week comparing a proof-of-vaccine policy for city facilities to the historical segregation of Black people.

Councillors were discussing a proof-of-vaccine policy at city facilities at a Monday meeting 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."

Late on Tuesday evening, Konge issued the apology in a text message to CBC.

"I want to apologize for the comparison that I made [Monday]," he said in a text message to CBC. "It was not an appropriate comparison to make. I'm deeply sorry to the people that my words hurt and harmed. Moving forward, I commit to continuing to learn, improve, and be respectful in our discussions."

Coun. Niels Konge issued an informal apology on Tuesday evening for comments he made comparing the city's proposed vaccine mandate to racial segregation. (Submitted)

Mayor Rebecca Alty told CBC's Loren McGinnis on The Trailbreaker Wednesday morning that she spoke with Konge on Monday night.

"We had a discussion about this, and he will be issuing a public apology on Monday," she said.

Alty said the city is looking at doing cultural and anti-racism training for council in the new year — training that was meant to happen over the summer, but didn't due to COVID-19.

As well, she said one complaint has been filed to the city's integrity commissioner.

"I have heard that one complaint has been issued," she said.

She said going forward, council will continue to call each out other out "when any council member is raising a comment like this."

"To hold each other accountable to living and acting to that higher standard that residents expect of us," Alty said.

On Tuesday, the Black Advocacy Coalition demanded Konge publicly apologize for his comments and that Konge educate himself on issues facing racialized communities. 

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."

Clarifications

  • The original headline on this story read "Anti-racism training coming, says Yellowknife mayor after councillor apologizes for racist comments." CBC has added the word "more" to the headline and the story's lead so as not to imply, inaccurately, that this training is new.
    Nov 04, 2021 10:02 AM CT

With files from Avery Zingel

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