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Vancouver city councillor’s Thin Blue Line patch draws criticism from community


A Vancouver city councillor and former police officer was seen wearing a thin blue line patch at a community event, igniting criticism for donning the controversial symbol.

On Sunday, Brian Montague was in Gastown and photos from the event show the patch on the sleeve of his jacket.

The patch depicts a blue line across a Maple Leaf. While those who defend it say it is a tribute to officers killed in the line of duty, critics point to its use by alt-right and white supremacist individuals and groups, particularly at political rallies in the U.S. such as the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. In 2017.

Ian Cromwell, who ran for a seat on council himself in October, said he was disappointed but not shocked to see Montague wearing the patch, given his decades-long career with the Vancouver Police Department.

But he worries about the message it sends when worn by an elected, municipal official – particularly to constituents who are vulnerable to police violence, critical of police practices, or outspoken about the issue of systemic racism in policing.

"The symbol that I think it sends to those communities is that their concerns are not really a priority for this council,” Cromwell said. “That they don't see any validity to the concerns about policing and the role that they play in our city, the role they play in our budget, and the role they play in our society.”

Police departments in Canada, inCalgary for example, have banned officers from displaying the insignia citing its "contentious history with roots in division, colonialism and racism." In 2020, the RCMP issued a directive to members instructing them not to display it. 

Tyson Singh Kelsall, an outreach social worker on the Downtown Eastside echoed Cromwell’s sentiments.

"I think what's most significant is that it's an us-versus-them mentality," he said.

"The line represents that without the police, without armed officers regulating our behaviour, we would fall into violence and chaos and that's a distorted view of the world."

Montague told CTV he was unavailable for an interview. He did respond to criticism online.

“It symbolizes courage and sacrifice. I earned the right to wear it. How dare you, or anyone, attempt to redefine, hijack, or appropriate my symbol,” he tweeted. 

In a statement to CTV News, Mayor Ken Sim said he stands by Montague’s choice to wear the patch.

“We condemn those who attempt to redefine or co-opt the thin blue line symbol for hatred or political purposes,” the statement said.

The boards of the Vancouver Police Department and the Metro Vancouver Transit Police have had to address complaints about officers wearing the patch this year. However, neither force has opted to create a policy or take a position on its use. Top Stories

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