A petition calling for the resignation of Abbotsford Coun. Brenda Falk has now collected over 500 signatures, with organizers claiming she has failed to be accountable for controversial statements her business made online last month.
Falk’s business Tanglebank made headlines in July after its Instagram account commented on a photo supporting the Black Lives Matter movement originally posted by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association.
The original post stated that racism has no place in Abbotsford and encouraged locals to donate to Black Lives Matters causes or purchase literature on the subject to gain a better understanding of the movement.
Tanglebank replied to that post stating, “All lives matter. Let’s treat people with respect and dignity no matter what colour or gender they are. Treat people the way you want to be treated and let’s stop the BS.”
Look what I just discovered – this local restaurant also happens to be owned by @abbotsfordfirst council member Brenda Falk. So… supporting people of colour is BS eh?? Yikes @City_Abbotsford you all are on a roll lately. @AbbyNews @ty_olsen pic.twitter.com/d3YWK4np48
— Sharn! (NOT Sharon) Kaur (@SharnFTC) July 24, 2020
Social media speculated that it was Coun. Falk who had made those statements, but The News learned it was her husband Arnold Falk. He went on to tell The News that he was upset the comment was deleted.
“I guess Downtown Abbotsford feels that treating people with respect and dignity and that all lives do matter was something that they didn’t agree with so they deleted it,” he stated in an email.
“As for the BLM movement, I think it is a good thing but now unfortunately it has been hijacked by certain individuals whose only goal is to cause chaos and destruction to people’s personal property and businesses as well. Like I stated in my comment, if we started to treat our fellow brothers the way we would want to be treated we probably wouldn’t be where we are in society today.”
Later that week Arnold Falk apologized for the comment stating that he “misunderstood the phrase to be a statement of equality,” and added that it’s “offensive and used to diminish the importance of black people’s struggle for equality.”
In the weeks that followed, Tanglebank’s Instagram page was bombarded with comments. They originally closed all comments on the page, but then reopened and deleted much of what was posted. Those running the Tanglebank page did not explain why they chose to take those actions.
Social media users also discovered that the Tanglebank Instagram account followed several accounts that they say post memes and messages that disparage people of colour and promote Nazi history such as @glory2USA, @world_wars_14_45 and #turningpointusa.
Social media users also documented Coun. Falk herself liking other pictures which seem to contradict the apology.
— christina, link in bio (@gayw0rm) August 28, 2020
Following all of these discoveries, the actions of Tanglebank online and the lack of comment from Coun. Falk herself, those who started the petition penned a letter to Falk requesting her to make a formal statement. The letter reads:
Dear Councillor Falk,
This letter constitutes a request for you, in your capacity as a co-owner of Tanglebank Gardens, to make a formal statement of the protocols your business will implement to ensure it is a welcoming establishment that supports every member of our community. Because of the influence you wield as a City Councillor as well as a business owner, we are compelled to ask that you wield it for the good of our community.
We are a group of individuals representing a wide spectrum of community development work in Abbotsford. Organizations and causes we have led, volunteered for, or otherwise supported include the June 5th and 13th Demonstrations for Solidarity, the Abbotsford Arts Council, Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Jam in Jubilee, the Atangard Community Development Project, CiVL Radio, and the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition. It’s important to note that we are speaking as individuals and not as representatives of any of these organizations. We list them merely to give you context for our passionate investment into this community, and the responsibility we now feel to engage with you regarding Tanglebank’s recent “all lives matter” controversy.
We have followed this controversy with great interest from its inception. We have participated in the public discourse over Tanglebank’s initial “all lives matter” statement, and the events that followed it. We have read Tanglebank’s official statement of apology. We have, as individuals, reached out to Tanglebank on social media platforms, making requests for reparative actions. Now, with Tanglebank apparently having fallen silent on the issue following their official apology, we are burdened by a sense of responsibility to continue the conversation. In our view, it has not been adequately concluded.
In addition to the original “all lives matter” comment, we are troubled by certain actions that Tanglebank has taken. First, we note that your business’ Instagram account has a history of following accounts that post memes, slogans, and messages that disparage BIPOC and even valorize Nazi history. Furthermore, you chose to block and delete the comments of BIPOC who attempted to engage you. These are indicators that further work must be done to substantiate your apology, and demonstrate that this controversy has become an opportunity to learn, grow, and better support a movement to root out systemic racism.
For example, there are several businesses in Abbotsford that are currently reconciling with their own destructive patterns that—whether intended or not—harm those outside of their immediate core demographic. Many of these businesses have begun practices of donating to local and provincial organizations that directly support BIPOC and/or programs that are BIPOC-led. Some have committed to investing in better training for their staff from outside groups. These are the types of actions that would demonstrate the authenticity of your apology, and your commitment to align with the anti-racist values that Abbotsford First, and the City of Abbotsford, have officially endorsed.
We would like to make it clear that we wish no ill will on yourself, your family, or your business. It is not our desire that Tanglebank be prevented from providing the value that our community clearly derives from it. We merely want to see the apology which your business posted substantiated by concrete actions. There are many positive steps you could take to this end, and we would be overjoyed to see you take them.
In closing, our goal in writing this letter is to open up channels of accountability, not communicate punitive intent. To quote Margeaux Feldman: “The main form of accountability we’ve been given is punishment: public shaming, ostracization, canceling, grounding, detention and incarceration…[But true] accountability says, You caused harm and are still deserving of care. With accountability, we can acknowledge that we caused harm, make amends and stop cycles of harm from occurring. We do this by being in community with others who will hold us accountable.”
If anything, we’re expressing a desire to truly be in community with you. But that can only happen through true accountability. We truly look forward to hearing what your perspective and plan is moving forward.
Kristin van Bommel van Vloten, Willow Dennison-Hardy, Drew Riekman, Sebastian Topacio, Niki Karakatsoulis, Mitchell Trainor
PS. We would appreciate an acknowledgement of your receipt of this letter. You need not respond right away, but please let us know when you plan to respond. Thanks again.
CC Abbotsford First
The letter was sent on Aug. 13, but the writers have not heard from Falk or Abbotsford First, which is the political slate she belongs to.
The News reached out to Coun. Falk for comment, and she declined to comment on the petition, instead referring to the statements previously made by Tanglebank, Abbotsford First and the City of Abbotsford.
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𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗔𝗯𝗯𝗼𝘁𝘀𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝗠𝗮𝘆𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹 – 𝗢𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗥𝗮𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗺, 𝗗𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 On behalf of Abbotsford City Council, I’d like to share some brief comments in regards to recent events– particularly the mobilization of people across the world, and especially those in our community who are spotlighting issues of systemic racism. These last few weeks have allowed many of us to step back and reflect on these issues, specifically how they affect Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) across our communities. We are not immune from systemic racism in Canada. As one of the most diverse communities in Canada, we recognize that Abbotsford residents have their own lived experiences and challenges. We stand with our community members and want to work alongside you. We know that diversity is our strength, and now, more than ever, we must commit to an end to all forms of racism in our community. With respect, Henry Braun Mayor, City of Abbotsford #AbbotsfordBC
We were incredibly proud of Abbotsford last weekend after seeing a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest to highlight issues of systemic racism. Watching people of many backgrounds and ages come together to help advocate for change gives us hope for a better future.
— Abbotsford First (@abbotsfordfirst) June 11, 2020
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Statement from Arnold Falk: . I would like to apologize to the community for a hurtful comment that I posted on social media and was recently published in the Abbotsford News. In a failed attempt to be inclusive, I posted a comment that included the phrase “all lives matter”. . At the time, I had misunderstood this phrase to be a statement of equality and I had used it with that intention. Through recent discussions, I have learned the history of the phrase and now understand that it is offensive and used to diminish the importance of black people’s struggle for equality. My use of the phrase was not intended as a rejection of the idea that black lives matter too. Rather, my intention was to share my belief in equality – that we should treat people with respect and dignity no matter what colour or gender they are. . I in no way intended to invalidate the specific concerns affecting the BIPOC community and I regret that my post came across that way. Like so many people, I am appalled by the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many others. Too many innocent black lives have been lost and this needs to stop. . I would also like to make clear that my initial comment only spoke for myself. I do not speak on behalf of the City of Abbotsford, the Mayor, my wife Brenda, or her colleagues on council. Responsibility for my actions lies with me and it is mine to bear. Additionally, I’d like to extend an apology to the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association – I did not mean for my post to reflect negatively in any way on them. . I try to live my life by treating others with dignity and respect and by the golden rule: to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I don’t always get it right the first time but I am always open to learning and growing. I am truly sorry for any hurt I have caused. . -Arnold Falk