Joanna Killen was one of the featured speakers at a demonstration of the Black Lives Matter movement in Saint John earlier this month.
While addressing the crowd, she spoke about times when she didn’t do all she could to confront systemic racism in the city and pledged to do more going forward.
True to her word, Killen spoke up by sending an email to Saint John City Council.
“A template came up that’s been circulated widely across Canada about defunding the police and it kind of breaks it down into bite-sized pieces,” she explains.
She says minutes after hitting send, she received a reply from Ward 1 Councillor Blake Armstrong.
The email reads in part: “I hope you never need help and have to call Police.”
A resident of Ward 1 herself, Killen was disheartened by the response, saying she even felt threatened.
“I interpreted it as a threat because I think it’s a thing that people say to try and silence people,” she says.
“I have had my own experiences with the Saint John Police Force and those kinds of words have been flung around at me before… so, it’s very typical but it still freaked me out as a constituent as a citizen.”
Killen made Armstrong’s response public through her social media channels on June 27, aiming to bring awareness to the dismissiveness she feels comes up all too often.
“It perpetuates fear over wanting to join the conversation,” she says.
Killen wants a public apology.
Saint John Mayor Don Darling posted to social media that he found Armstrong’s response “unacceptable,” stating he also feels an apology is necessary.
Speaking to Global News, Armstrong was unapologetic.
“There’s nothing wrong with my statement and I have nothing to apologize for,” he says.
Armstrong goes on to say he acknowledges the argument that there is systemic racism in policing.
“I’m sure there is some,” he says. “But have I experienced it? No.”
Killen hopes to keep the conversation going and to see some of those speaking up on the ballot for the municipal election.
As for Armstrong, he says he hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll reoffer when it happens.