News / Calgary

Video of Nenshi talking election racism surfaces after incumbent clarifies race concerns

Nenshi says efforts to organize hateful, anti-governmental voters subverting democracy

Incumbent Mayor Naheed Nenshi files his nomination papers for the Calgary municipal election, which will be held on Oct 16.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / for Metro

Incumbent Mayor Naheed Nenshi files his nomination papers for the Calgary municipal election, which will be held on Oct 16.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi's comments about race aren't new, but another video that's surfaced, featuring the incumbent, calls the process of getting out a racist, government-hating vote anti-democratic.

Just prior to this new video, a video with a similar narrative about hateful and racist rhetoric online and its role in the election was widely shared online and in local media.

Then during the last forum mayoral competitor Jason Gogo stood in front of a crowded room of voters and demanded the incumbent apologize for suggesting that those who don't vote for Nenshi are racist.

It was a tense moment, and the crowd booed as Nenshi took the stage to respond.

"For those who say, 'don't talk about it,' do you not talk about this hateful behaviour going on? That's shameful we have to name and shame it," said Nenshi. "For people to say how dare this guy raise this, that is, in and of itself, empowering this behaviour."

Save Calgary, a third-party group with an interest in booting from office the incumbent they call a failing candidate, released an edited version of Radio Sur Sangam's Facebook Live interview with Nenshi on Oct. 11.

Metro has reviewed the original video, and the one edited on Save Calgary's Facebook.

In the last few minutes of the live stream, after the hosts have already begun to sign off, Nenshi makes a few extra statements to his audience.

He asks Calgarians to come out and vote and counts on support, he wants the voter turnout to be higher, and then he brings up a familiar speech about the bitter world we live in.

"One thing we know is happening is there are forces organizing to bring people who I would call racists and haters to the polls. Those people never voted before, they hate government and right now there's very sophisticated work going on to identify these people and make sure they vote. And in a low-turnout election like we saw November 2016 in the U.S. those people will make the difference.

"We cannot allow that to happen, whether you like me or not, we cannot allow for a vote that subverts democracy.

"So make sure you vote, bring your family and friends to vote..." Nenshi said.

Metro recieved a written response from the Nenshi team on Wednesday detailing that from the start of the incumbent's campaign there's been a regrettable amount of racist and hateful comments on social media the incumbent has been speaking out about for months.

"The comments from a small minority have been magnified by automated bots, anonymous online accounts, and third-party groups that have been targeting the mayor and select councillors," said Chima Nkemdirim, Re-elect Naheed Nenshi campaign chair.

​"We are unified with other candidates in the election for condemning these activities. The vast majority of Calgarians defend our city’s diversity and inclusiveness so that Calgary remains a great place to make a life for everyone."

In an interview with Metro, political expert Lori Williams with Mount Royal University, said the mayor could have been clearer about his statements, especially if he was trying to talk about third-party groups vying for funds to run campaigns against particular incumbents.

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"It might have been a bit much to say that it's against democracy," said Williams. "It's legitimate to raise questions, as many have, many have wondered about what some of the decline in the polls against Mayor Nenshi ... what brought that on."

Williams said regardless of your belief everybody is permitted to vote, and Nenshi is allowed to say there's a racist element to the campaign.

"It might diminish the quality of democracy, and I think that's a concern in all kinds of ways in this election – I'm seeing a lot of things I'd rather not see in a democracy. I'd like to see open discussion of issues more than there has been, I'd like people to cast informed votes.

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