The regular St. John’s council meeting began with a moment of silence on Tuesday in light of the terror attack in New Zealand.
Mayor Danny Breen said the community seems to be always sending messages of condolences, and while that may be comforting to people, further action is necessary.
“We need to work hard at making sure that the city of St. John’s is inclusive, it’s welcoming, and it’s a place where all the residents feel that they belong.”
Coun. Maggie Burton said “xenophobic and homophobic tropes and conspiratorial thinking” is visible on social media pages in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I was particularly disturbed to see comments on a local group that were describing the motives and goals of the Christchurch shooter as laudable, even if his methods were said to have gone too far. That he was right to feel justified in wanting to murder Muslims. This rhetoric is utterly unacceptable.”
Burton called on everyone to take responsibility for our communities, speak up and “reassert the fundamental worthiness of all human beings.”
She asked city staff to look into the city joining the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, a coalition under the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
The network – which has 75 member cities across the country – brings together municipalities that want to improve their policies against racism, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance, according to its website.
Emails to mayor
Breen said he received emails in the wake of the Christchurch attack from people that “were not welcoming” or inclusive. He did not give further details about the content of the emails, but said it’s not something he will “let go.”
Breen said the kinds of comments he received in the emails are not the St. John’s that he knows, but that such feelings do exist here.
“I think that they need to be identified when they’re brought out and I don’t intend to sit back and let those things happen – I’ll be more forceful on those.”
He said as a leader the kinds of things he can do is have programs that are inclusive and welcoming, and simply be inclusive and show support.
Breen said everyone has a responsibility to ensure St. John’s is an inclusive city.
“So, I think that extra level of support to the Muslim community and to all the residents of the city is required.”