Saskatoon

Mayor condemns posters spreading 'fear and hate' that targeted Saskatoon LGBT, newcomer groups

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark posted a statement Friday night about the postering campaign to his Facebook page, saying there’s no place in the city for this type of messaging.

Posters put up at OUTSaskatoon, Open Door Society have 'no place in our community,' says Mayor Charlie Clark

An employee at OUTSaskatoon works to remove posters at the organization's office on Friday. (OUTSaskatoon/Instagram)

Saskatoon's mayor says a poster campaign spreading "fear and hate" that targeted OUTSaskatoon and the Saskatoon Open Door Society has no place in the city.

The posters, which featured messaging about the "replacement" of European Canadians, were glued to the front of the offices of the newcomer settlement organization and the LGBTQ advocacy group earlier this week.

OUTSaskatoon called the posters hateful and an act of white supremacy, and the Saskatoon Open Door Society said the posters were a threat to its staff, clients and the community on a whole.

"They're rooted in misconceptions and misreadings about immigration statistics and are also rooted in hateful, prejudiced and biased understanding of how immigration works in Canada and the Canadian society," said Ali Abukar, the executive director of the Saskatoon Open Door Society.

He said while the posters did cause some damage to the exterior of the society's building, the emotional damage the posters did to its staff and clients is more concerning.

On Friday night, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark posted a statement about the posters to his Facebook page.

Executive director Ali Abukar at the Saskatoon Open Door Society's offices, which were targeted by 'hateful, prejudiced and biased' posters. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

"This postering campaign spreading fear and hate has no place in our community," he said in the Facebook post.

"The facts are that those who have immigrated here have been instrumental in building Saskatoon, and building a welcoming inclusive city is essential to our success for the future."

In the post, Clark said sentiments advocating for "dangerous old ideas of Eurocentrism and white supremacy can become a threat to the safety of families in our community and to our ability to grow as a modern global city."

Clark called the posters an attack on the motto on Saskatchewan's coat of arms, which is "from many peoples, strength."

"Let us continue to stand together and speak for a better city, a welcoming city and work to build understanding and belonging for everyone."

It's unclear who is behind the campaign. The Saskatoon Police Service has been notified about the posters, and said in a statement emailed to CBC Friday that its investigation was in the "very early stages." 

"We cannot comment on the motives of the suspect," police said in the statement.

The posters were removed quickly from both organizations' buildings.

On Saturday, Abukar said his newcomer group has seen an outpouring of support since news of the posters became public.

The support from Mayor Clark was welcome, he said, as it shows community leaders are not going to stand for this kind of messaging in the city. 

"It shows the character and strength of our community," he said, and leaves him feeling "hopeful."

"Our leaders believe that these kind of acts and these kinds of hateful sentiments have no place in our community, which makes me optimistic about what we can achieve as a community."

Several posters can be seen on the front window of OUTSaskatoon's office on Thursday. (OUTSaskatoon/Instagram)

Rachel Loewen Walker, the executive director of OUTSaskatoon, said she was shocked by the postering, as OUTSaskatoon had never been targeted by this type of act before.

On Saturday morning, she said she was pleased Mayor Clark was speaking out.   

"It's powerful, it's important, it's appreciated," she said. "I think it's brave steps for our city."

She said Clark's message sends a clear statement about the type of city Saskatoon is trying to be, and that if people see the mayor standing up against this type of messaging, others may be inspired to do the same.

"When our elected officials and our leaders stand up against hate, against white supremacy against eurocentrism, I think it does send a strong message that the rest of us too can stand up," she said.