YK councillors agree to censure Konge for ‘inappropriate’ comments
In a seven to one vote, Yellowknife councillors chose to censure colleague Niels Konge for his “inappropriate comparisons” during two city meetings late last year.
In a report earlier this month, the city’s integrity commissioner – Sheldon Toner – found Konge had violated the city council ethics code for remarks that Toner said were “not expressly racist” but racially insensitive.
Konge in September compared the plight of small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic to the Sixties Scoop, then in November drew parallels between a proof-of-vaccination policy and racial segregation.
Konge has apologized for both incidents and indicated he is willing to attend cultural awareness and anti-racism training.
On Monday evening, Mayor Rebecca Alty and councillors Stacie Smith, Shauna Morgan, Julian Morse, Robin Williams, Cynthia Mufandaedza, and Rommel Silverio voted to censure Konge. Other options included removing Konge from a meeting or providing cultural awareness training, which the city has already pledged to do.
“A censure is an important statement by council that sets the standards for our debate, that we all need to strive to achieve and hold each other accountable for, and what our institution stands for,” Alty said.
Councillor Morgan stressed she felt the censure did not label anyone a racist but clarified when conduct is inappropriate.
“It’s important that we focus on the comments themselves and not the person because we are all colleagues and we’re all learning, and we’re all trying to do better in lots of different ways,” she said.
Konge was excused from the meeting during the vote. Steve Payne was the sole councillor to vote against the censure, saying he didn’t believe Konge intended to hurt anyone.
“This is a tough one,” he said. “We speak to everything that is happening in town and we are put under pressure and sometimes we misspeak – and I’ve misspoke myself, but never in an intent that would hurt anybody.”
Payne continued: “There’s not an ounce of me that thinks there was any negative intent on Councillor Konge’s behalf.
“If comments were made with any negative tones and any malice in his heart, I would have no issue supporting this.”