NANAIMO — Recent comments online by a controversial Nanaimo city councillor equating downtown Nanaimo's tent city to a concentration camp have drawn the ire of Jewish advocates.
Coun. Gord Fuller commented in his Facebook group that Discontent City, where roughly 250 people live in tents and ramshackle huts, was a concentration camp. A comment was first made in early July, responding to a comment which said the tent city should be renamed “rape city.” On Aug. 14, he posted to explain he was using the term “concentration camp” in a literal sense of a large group of people in one spot.
Later that day, he posted again to clarify why he was using a term which was so closely tied to the deaths of millions of Jewish people during the Second World War.
The Facebook posts and comments are of great concern to B'nai Brith Canada, an organization which advocates on behalf of Jewish Canadians and combats antisemitism and racism.
Ran Ukashi, national director of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith, said the comparison was “grossly offensive.”
“To hear that kind of equivalency made so haphazardly by an elected official, is frankly inappropriate,” he told NanaimoNewsNOW. “This is a person who enjoys the public trust. Regardless of how dire the tent city situation is in Nanaimo, I think any reasonable person would agree that comparing it to historical concentration camps would be unfair, to say the least.”
A letter sent by Ukashi to Fuller on Aug. 31 said they received various complaints about the online comments and they asked he remove them from the Facebook page.
“We find this comparison to be grossly offensive and an insult to the memory of Canadian Holocaust survivors and others who have suffered in concentration and internment camps around the world,” the letter said.
“No reasonable comparison can be made between such sites of horror and the contemporary situation facing the City of Nanaimo, especially as such comparisons serve to diminish the historical truth and severity of what transpired during the Nazi Holocaust and other atrocities around the world.”
Fuller's reply, dated later the same day, said he has a substantial knowledge of concentration camps and the atrocities of war and he didn't mean the comparison as a slight. He also restated the context of his statement by saying he meant it as “simply a concentration of the street entrenched addicted in one place.”
“That's not really much of a defense given the fact that no other connotation is really used,” Ukashi told NanaimoNewsNOW. “What else would it be?
“If he's someone who's a student of history...then he should be first to understand why it's offensive and problematic.”
When reached for comment on Friday, Sept. 7, coun. Fuller re-iterated to NanaimoNewsNOW he used the term “concentration camp” to refer to the large group of people who live at 1 Port Dr., not the extensive system of camps used by the Nazi's to enslave millions of Polish Jews and political enemies during the Second World War.
Fuller said he'd remove the posts “if (he) could find them.”
The posts were still up on his personal Facebook page at the time of publication on Monday, Sept. 10, the same day Fuller announced his candidacy in the upcoming municipal election.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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