Organization that works with homeless Edmontonians hearing more bigoted, hateful rhetoric lately

Boyle Street Community Services. Chris Chacon/Global News

Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) shared an angry and hateful voicemail it recently received to the media on Wednesday and said it is an example of what the organization describes as an increase in hateful and bigoted comments it’s received from Edmontonians in recent weeks.

The voicemail, which BSCS said it received on Nov. 11, uses coarse language and calls on Indigenous people and the BSCS itself to leave Edmonton, suggesting they go to a First Nation west of the city. The BSCS, which works to help homeless Edmontonians, said it has reported the voicemail to the Edmonton Police Service.

“We reported it to EPS as a hate incident,” said Elliott Tanti, the senior manager of communications and engagement at BSCS. “Boyle Street Community Services is disgusted by this abhorrent message.

“I think it demonstrates quite clearly the discrimination that many of our Indigenous folks face in our community. But what’s particularly appalling is that this individual levelled these words at the most marginalized in our society, and they did it through an organization that exists to help people… I think that’s ultimately what’s most troubling about this voicemail that we received.”

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Global News has reached out to EPS for comment on the voicemail and to ask if the police department is investigating. A spokesperson for EPS declined to confirm if police are investigating but said the recording was brought forward to them and police are “following up.” They added it was too early to comment further.

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Tanti said discrimination is unfortunately something that is commonly seen in his line of work but said the brazenness of allowing such comments to be recorded in a voicemail, and the recent upswing in such sentiments, is particularly disturbing.

According to Tanti, the increase BSCS has seen in such rhetoric has been noticeable since the organization began community consultations a year ago on a proposal to move BSCS to a new building in the city’s core.

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton hears appeal of new Boyle Street Community Services building'
City of Edmonton hears appeal of new Boyle Street Community Services building

The organization had been planning a move from 105 Avenue by Rogers Place to a building on the corner of 101 Street and 107A Avenue near Victoria School of the Arts, but the move faced some vocal public opposition.

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READ MORE: Boyle Street Community Services’ plans for new Edmonton location facing opposition

Last week, the city’s subdivision appeal board revoked BSCS’ development permit.

BSCS has said its current building is “literally crumbling” and not accessible for all so it needs to move so it can continue to serve the nearly 3,000 homeless people who live in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Edmonton homeless aid centre loses development permit after appeal hearing

Tanti said during consultations with Edmontonians, BSCS has noticed evident discrimination coming up in discussions.

“We don’t think this is reflective of the city we live in, but it certainly is reflective of some of the sentiments we’ve received as an organization over the last two weeks,” he said.

“We want to make sure that people are feeling welcome, are feeling heard, they have an opportunity to discuss this discrimination.”

–With files from Stephanie Swensrude, 630 CHED

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