Demand Real Accountability from Councillor Brenda Falk
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A group of Fraser Valley based activists, including SAFE Abbotsford, the organizers of Abbotsford's June 5th and 13th Demonstrations for Solidarity, are calling for the resignation of City of Abbotsford Councillor Brenda Falk. This is a last resort for compelling accountability from a public figure who is neglecting her responsibility to root out systemic racism.
How this began
Controversy erupted in late July when a comment posted by Falk's business, Tanglebank, on an Instagram post supporting the Black Lives Matter movement surfaced. It read: “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”. Following backlash, Tanglebank posted an apology on their Instagram page.
Why it's not over
However, much evidence points to the insincerity of this apology. Tanglebank has a history of following accounts that post memes and messages that disparage BIPOC (e.g., @glory2usa) and even valorize Nazi history (i.e., @world_wars_14_45.) Furthermore, prior to and following their apology, Tangebank blocked and deleted the comments of BIPOC. Finally, when we reached out to Ms. Falk with a polite letter (see below) requesting a formal statement of the anti-racist protocols her business would practice going forward, we were met with silence.
The bigger picture
Abbotsford First, the party that Ms. Falk represents, has stated their commitment "to working to end systemic racism in municipal institutions". In addition, Abbotsford’s Mayor and Council has stated that they "must commit to an end to all forms of racism in our community." If she were merely a business owner, the "all lives matter" controversy would be incredibly unfortunate. But because Ms. Falk is also a municipal leader, her insincere PR response and refusal to engage in substantive anti-racism work-- especially in a city as diverse as Abbotsford-- is deeply unacceptable.
Join us in refusing to accept superficial and insincere PR from leaders who need to stop sweeping racism under the rug. If the City of Abbotsford is truly committed to rooting out systemic racism, they must hold their leaders to a higher standard. And if they won't, we will.
To learn more, visit our Instagram, accountable.tanglebank
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Here is the letter we sent to Councillor Falk and her party, Abbotsford First, on August 13th, 2020:
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
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