Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says he has full confidence in the city’s police department, but acknowledged that Canada isn’t immune from the “systemic racism” that has sparked protests in the United States and across the globe.
Braun said he was disturbed by what he has seen in the United States and that the protests – and police reactions to those demonstrations – are “rooted in years of systemic racism.”
“That is an ugly reality that unfortunately we are not immune from in Canada,” he added. Braun pointed to an incident in Abbotsford in which a local South Asian lawyer filmed a man hurling racist slurs at him.
However, Braun, who is chair of the Abbotsford Police board, suggested such incidents are “outliers” in Abbotsford, and that the police here shouldn’t be tarnished by the actions of officers in the United States and other jurisdictions.
“If we see this night after night after night, the public’s perception of police, in my view, is going to go in the wrong direction when it comes to Canada,” Braun said.
Braun gave his full support to the Abbotsford Police Department.
“I can tell you we have a first-class police department,” he said. “Now that doesn’t mean for one minute that it’s a perfect police department. It isn’t. There’s nothing perfect … But we haven’t had these kinds of issues I’m watching.”
Braun said he was particularly troubled by the leadership, or lack thereof, from American politicians.
“I’m most troubled by the willingness of elected officials who continue to pit their citizens against each other – and that is not the job of a leader,” he said. “Leaders must, now more than ever, work to support and amplify diverse voices. That is who we are in Abbotsford.”
Asked about Canada’s own spotty record when it comes to how police and minorities interact, Braun said the responsibility rests with a community’s leadership.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership. If you have issues in a police department, you can usually trace it back to history, how people were mentored, and the leadership of the day.”
Braun said the police board regularly discusses such issues and emphasizes the need for respect, and he emphasized the diversity of recruits to the Abbotsford Police Department.
Braun said there have been police officers who act inappropriately, but that “there are ways to deal with them.”
“The public expects a high level of trust and confidence in our institutions, and when we violate that, we all lose.”
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