A thin blue line Canadian flag at the Edmonton Police Association is meant to be a show of solidarity, the president says.
Sgt. Michael Elliott said Wednesday the flag has been flying at the headquarters at 14220 112 Ave. for two-and-a-half months.
“I don’t know where and how the symbolism of the blue line flag turned into being considered a racist or hateful type of thing,” Elliott said. “From our perspective here at the association it represents support and solidarity to our colleagues in the first responder world.”
Elliott said the flag was flying at half-mast on Tuesday to show their support and thoughts for an Ontario colleague who committed suicide due to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder on the job.
Depicted as a horizontal blue line through the middle of a black and white Canadian flag, it has been perceived as a symbol that provides a message of “us versus them” or “police versus the public.” The flag has been linked to the Blue Lives Matter movement in support of police, which rose up as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, with the symbol perceived as opposition to racial justice.
It was also seen flying next to a confederate flag at the Unite the Right rally, a white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
Tom Engel, an Edmonton criminal defence lawyer and head of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association policing committee, tweeted a photo of the flag on Tuesday, writing the association was “proudly and provocatively flying their divisive, us-versus-them” thin blue line flag.
Engel said Wednesday by flying the flag, the association is ignoring the concerns about it, especially for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC).
“The fact of the matter is, is that it’s a very divisive symbol and very concerning to large portions of our society. So why do it? It’s kind of a brazen defiance,” Engel said.
“I’m surprised and I’m disappointed that the EPA wouldn’t know better and wouldn’t try to be sensitive to this particular issue.”
In a statement, the Edmonton Police Association called the social media post misinformed and slanted and said it has created a safety concern for the civilian employees that work at the association’s headquarters.
“The EPA is receiving threatening and derogatory communication that is based on misinformation provided by the original social media post author,” the association stated.
The association has reached out to the author of the post to request a meeting to discuss the matter.
Critics have previously called for the Calgary Police Service to move away from allowing its officers to wear the thin blue line symbol while last year the RCMP told its members across the country they would no longer be allowed to wear the emblem while on duty.
Engel said it would be a “gesture of goodwill” to BIPOC and other communities if the association were to stop using the symbol.
Elliott, however, said the flag is not there to create divisiveness or animosity. It’s to show colleagues in the line of duty they are thinking of them.
“That won’t change given what it represents to us and how it’s our way of saying, we’re thinking of you and that’s the importance of it. It’s the opposite effect of hatred and division.”