On March 16, 2023, your colleague Councillor Markus Chambers made the attached social media post (Image 1), which he has since taken down and replaced with a different image, also attached (Image 2), and some words of qualification. He did not apologize for the post, and has gone so far as to state in its replacement that the "intent" of his original message remains.
The "thin blue line" symbol emerged as a specific rebuttal to the Black Lives Matter movement; the Poynter Institute's PolitiFact concluded viewers "could easily see the flag as an 'anti Black Lives Matter flag.'" As recently reported after its use by federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, "the thin blue line is viewed by many as associated with racism and an us vs. them mentality." Because it is a well-recognized hate symbol, injunctions against its use have been declared by the RCMP, and it is banned in many Canadian police forces, including those of Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Saskatoon, and Victoria. It has also been banned or restricted by police forces in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Iceland, and Sussex, UK.
Its use by Councillor Chambers is unsurprising. This is in fact not the first time he has used the "thin blue line" in public messaging. (Please see the additional attached social media posts, Image 3 and 4) However, in light of his role on City Council and as Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board, an entity meant to direct and oversee the WPS, this behaviour is deeply alarming.
Perhaps you were unaware of these incidents. To be sure, up to this point in time there has been no media coverage of these incidents, nor comment from the City. Chambers has previously, and continues to, frequently express unambiguous and unmitigated support for the WPS, and has consistently displayed disrespect in council and committee meetings for City of Winnipeg residents who express concerns about policing and a desire to reduce the WPS budget. However, the act of posting a “thin blue line” is a display of intolerance that goes far beyond mere disrespect, and we as City of Winnipeg residents do not feel that this demonstration of hateful views can remain unaddressed.
We therefore request a response from you regarding Councillor Chambers' actions and for you to denounce his use of this hate symbol, both in response to this email, and publicly as Winnipeg City Council. Since his use of the "thin blue line" clearly demonstrates that he should not be making decisions in matters related to policing, we ask that Councillor Chambers be removed from any position on the Winnipeg Police Board.
A lack of response from you will be considered a reflection of Winnipeg City Council's failing to consider the use of the "thin blue line" a serious issue, and a failing to consider the repeated use of this hate symbol by one of your own city councillors unacceptable. As you can see we are cc'ing members of the media in this open communication.
- Winnipeg Police Cause Harm
- Police Free Schools Winnipeg
- Solidarity Winnipeg
- Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
- Communist Party of Canada (Manitoba)
- Kevin Walby, Centre for Access to Information and Justice (CAIJ), University of Winnipeg