Police chiefs, community denounce 'hateful' video comparing Ottawa chief to Hitler
Video mocks Peter Sloly about his stance on systemic racism in the force
A video depicting the chief of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) as Adolf Hitler is being condemned by those both inside and outside the province's police community.
The video, which has circulated on Twitter, is a manipulated version of a scene from the 2004 German-language film Downfall, which tells the story of Hitler's final days.
The scene shows Hitler ranting to a gathering of Nazi officers, but the subtitles have been replaced so that it appears he is actually speaking the words of Chief Peter Sloly, with the other officers meant to be members of Ottawa's police force.
Similar videos have been made for years to criticize everything from government programs to decisions made by coaches in playoff games to the 2009-10 OC Transpo strike.
This one appeared online not long after Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof posted a letter on the union's website in which he took issue with the chief's assertion that racism exists within the OPS.
"For me, it's something that is quite reprehensible. It's absolutely racist," said César Ndéma-Moussa, president of advocacy group Roots and Culture Canada and a member of the city's community equity council, which works to improve the relationship between police and marginalized communities.
"I truly am convinced the fact that Chief Sloly is Black plays a strong role in the latest ... attacks that he's been a victim of."
No investigation confirmed
It's not clear who posted the video, or if OPS is investigating. The police service did not respond last week to a request for comment, while Skof also declined to speak about the video.
Ndéma-Moussa said he'd like to see those responsible held to account.
"The very nature of the video is to mock Chief Sloly, is to mock the very notions of systemic racism, is to mock equity, diversity and [inclusiveness]," he said.
In a time when the conversation around racism is so heated, a video like this can be a step in the wrong direction, said Aisha Sherazi, a former member of the equity council.
"The chief has not said anything different to his predecessor. But unfortunately, for some reason, you know, there's a different standard being applied to his message," she said.
Police chiefs in support
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police also denounced the video on social media this past week.
Executive director Jeff McGuire said it undermines Sloly's authority and may make it more difficult for him to do his job, especially since he's only been chief since 2019.
"It was disgraceful, gutless, hateful," McGuire said.
"Going into another agency, from outside, to be the leader of that organisation can have significant challenges. When you throw things like [these] hateful, racist comments into the mix on top of it, it's actually that much more challenging."
McGuire said if an investigation takes place, he could see there being discussion about whether the video is evidence of a hate crime happening — but such a charge would have to first meet certain criteria within the Criminal Code.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.