‘Out of touch’: Calgary groups frustrated after Coun. Farkas ‘extremists’ remark

Comment was made during debate over reallocation of funding to address gaps in 'racial and culturally appropriate services'

Protesters came out in the hundreds to express anger while taking part in Calgary's Black Lives Matter protest. ISAIAH LINDO / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary’s BIPOC community leaders say Coun. Jeromy Farkas is “showing Calgary his true colours” after a comment made in council Tuesday night.

Late Tuesday, at the city’s Combined Meeting of Council, councillors debated a plan that could see up to $20 million reallocated from the city budget, including the Calgary Police Service budget, for a Community Safety Investment Framework.

Those funds would be used to address gaps in a variety of “racial and culturally appropriate services.”

During his close on an attempted amendment to have the funds come from the city’s fiscal sustainability reserve, he cautioned the city about making front line cuts to the police.

“It’s not going to work. Clumsy and dangerous attempts to appease extremists will only serve to undermine safety and set us back,” Coun. Farkas said.

Earlier this year, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said they’re open to reallocating CPS funding to other programs.

On Wednesday, those in the city’s BIPOC communities said Coun. Farkas’ comments were offensive.

“To label people in Calgary, who have done nothing but show up for peaceful demonstrations, fighting for equality of minority communities as extremists, is ignorant, unprofessional, and out of touch,” said Adam Massiah, CEO of activist group the United Black People’s Allyship. (UBPA)

He added that there was no violence instigated by any member of any activist group during the recent protests.

‘No one is trying to appeal to extremist groups.’

LISTEN TO THE FULL EXCHANGE IN CITY COUNCIL

Councillors also rebuked the words.

“I take offence to those remarks. It’s a complete misrepresentation of what’s happening here,” said Coun. Jyoti Gondek.

“I will not sit here and listen to a colleague that sat on the (police) commission with me misrepresent what we are trying to do. No one is trying to appeal to extremist groups.”

Earlier this week, Farkas was criticized for claiming he was removed from the police commission. That, he said, was due to a stance he took when he refused to acknowledge the statement “The foundation of policing is racist.”

Community advocates said he’s playing loose with the information.

“He misleads the public regarding the CPS budget, and continues to play with facts,” said Courtney Walcott, the Defund2Fund Coalition’s spokesperson. They’re a Calgary group advocating for CPS funding to go to other social programs.

“He’s choosing to create division, spew rhetoric in an attempt to stoke fear, and most importantly, he’s showing Calgary his true colours.”

Coun. Farrell had requested Coun. Farkas to withdraw his comment during the meeting.

After refusing to withdraw his comments, as per Mayor Nenshi’s final request, Coun. Farkas had his microphone cut off.

Protestors march against police brutality in Calgary (OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

Standing his ground

Farkas wanted to take the money for these services from the city’s fiscal sustainability reserve instead of from the police.

“Simply, I’m trying to make this motion less worse, to at least limit the impact that will have in terms of further reductions to the police,” said Coun. Farkas.

Walcott said he felt Farkas isn’t willing to have a productive conversation.

Walcott said that Coun. Farkas has refused to speak with the Defund2Fund coalition.

“Instead, he chooses to portray us as radical extremists,” said Walcott.

“He doesn’t care about the safety of all Calgarians, he only cares about maintaining the status quo.”

We have attempted to contact Coun. Farkas via phone and text to confirm that he’s received an invitation to speak to the group, but haven’t yet received a response. We will update the story with his response when it’s received.

Walcott added that the offer Defund2Fund made to Farkas to sit down and discuss this issue is still open. The coalition will not exclude him from the conversation.


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