Abbotsford Coun. Brenda Falk created controversy again online this week, but the questionable content she shared raised concerns about the lack of clarity of the city’s responsible code of conduct for council members.
On Tuesday morning (May 18), Falk shared a meme of German student and anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl. The image included text stating, “Since all of this started, I hardly wore a swastika. Only when I have to, to go shopping, to work or to make others more comfortable. “
Scholl was convicted of high treason after she was discovered distributing anti-war leaflets at her university. She was executed by guillotine for her crimes in 1943.
Falk originally included “wise words for all of us” with the photo. She then later edited her commentary to include more context, stating, “She lived a calm and peaceful life of strong conviction and was prepared to pay the ultimate price for her beliefs. How many of us are willing to do the same for our faith. “
The post sparked anger online, with many believing it was using the post to compare current restrictions of COVID-19 to life in Nazi Germany. Others supported her for speaking out “in defense of freedom”.
Falk is a member of the “End the Lockdowns” caucus and recently said she believes the current lockdowns and restrictions are worse than the COVID-19 virus.
Asked by the media about the restrictions she disagreed with, she was unable to respond. British Columbia has less severe restrictions than other provinces, but restaurants have not been able to offer indoor dining since March 29. Falk is the owner of Tanglebank Gardens and Brambles Bistro in Abbotsford.
The News tried for several days to get comments from Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, and it responded with a statement Thursday night.
“I understand that the post posted on social media by Brenda Falk is upsetting to some people,” he said in an email. “These were comments made on a personal Facebook account and not shared on behalf of the City of Abbotsford. In these particular circumstances, an individual’s personal comments and opinions are not part of the City’s Code of Responsible Conduct for Council Members. Therefore, how a situation like this is handled ultimately depends on the elected official in question and the residents of Abbotsford throughout the municipal election process.
Falk has a personal Facebook page and an official Abbotsford Councilor Facebook page. The last post on his official city account was on June 30, 2020.
The Code of Responsible Conduct for Abbotsford City Council Members, which was established in 2019, can be found at: abbotsford.civicweb.net/document/55288.
A section of the policy states that examples of “unacceptable conduct” include “the use of disrespectful, derogatory, degrading, defamatory, discriminatory, intolerant or offensive language at any time and on any communication platform, including the media social as a representative of the City. “
On Falk’s personal Facebook page, she is identified as an Abbotsford City Councilor and the City of Abbotsford is also identified as one of her employers.
The News has asked Braun and the city for clarification on why personal Facebook accounts do not fall under the code of conduct, but they have yet to respond to The News.
A BC counselor came under scrutiny in March after posting a sexist meme on his personal Facebook page.
Tek Manhas from North Cowichan posted a photo of an old man holding a cigarette and a can of beer saying, “When your wife does hers just tell her ‘less cooking’ more cooking. Women love it when you rhyme.
Mana later apologized for posting the meme and deleted it. The review later determined that Manhas had not violated the code of conduct and city staff concluded that his apology and removal from the post was sufficient.
The mayor of Pouce Coupe, British Columbia, Lorraine Michetti was also criticized after sharing messages that many considered racist and anti-Semitic. She had made an online comment comparing gun owners to Holocaust victims and also posted photos of a garbage-strewn lawn on Facebook and said, “You don’t want a Pipeline (sic) ? They want to protect our land. Yeah OK”.
Many believed it was a racist reference to Indigenous opponents of the pipeline.
Michetti later apologized for her social media activity, but refused to step down from her role.
Earlier this month, Abbotsford School Trustee Phil Anderson temporarily resigned after being criticized for sharing a photo comparing wearing a mask to slavery on his Facebook page .
Anderson then deleted the message and apologized. He is currently undergoing training to gain a better understanding of the topics he has posted on. Abbotsford School Board Chairman Stan Peterson said he wanted to act quickly.
“The Abbotsford School Board is fundamentally committed to providing a safe, equitable and inclusive environment for all of our students, staff and families,” he said. “The council is firmly committed to the fight against racism and opposes hatred in all its forms.”
Kayla Stuckart, communications manager for the Abbotsford School District, said the district had administrative proceedings on social media, but it was Anderson’s decision to step down.
“We work to ensure that our students are responsible digital citizens who reflect our values of respect, trust, integrity, communication, teamwork and the same is expected of our employees,” he said. she declared in an e-mail. “Our Social Media Policy provides our employees (including Trustees) with guidelines for understanding the impact of social media and the appropriate use of these platforms.”
Falk also received backlash last summer when Tanglebank’s Instagram account commented on a Black Lives Matter post by Downtown Abbotsford’s Instagram account. Tanglebank said “all lives matter” and recommended that “people be treated the way you want to be treated and stop BS.”
It was later revealed that it was Falk’s husband Arnold who made the comments. He was initially upset that his comments were deleted by Downtown Abbotsford, but later apologized for his comments.
Shortly after the controversy, a petition was launched to demand the Council’s resignation. Falk. The petition, still active, collected 855 signatures.
It was announced on Friday (May 21) that Falk has offered his resignation on May 12 from his role on the AbbotsfordFirst slate. She was a member of slate since 2014.
– Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) May 21, 2021