Vancouver’s city manager is in damage control after his memo about the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel offended some employees.
In a Nov. 28 memo to all staff, Paul Mochrie apologized for his original Oct. 10 staff email “in response to Hamas’ horrific attack on Israel” that generated an unspecified number of complaints.
“I have seen how this ongoing conflict has caused deep pain and fear for many members of our staff, particularly those who are Jewish, Palestinian, Israeli, Arab, Muslim or have loved ones that are members of those communities,” Mochrie wrote.
He said that he had received direct and indirect replies to his Oct. 10 message from team members who were concerned or hurt by his message.
“In particular that I neglected to specifically identify as Palestinians the civilians in Gaza who have been and are still suffering terribly as a result of this conflict,” Mochrie wrote.
“In no way did I intend to overlook or downplay the impact of this conflict on the Palestinian community in Gaza or here in Vancouver. I am sorry to anyone who felt that I downplayed this or that it may have opened a door to Islamophobia in our workplace.”
Mochrie started the Nov. 28 memo by mentioning his appearance on the Oct. 26 Justice, Equity, Decolonization and Inclusion virtual staff meeting and noted the local, national and international rise in antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate incidents.
He said the city remains in close contact with the Vancouver Police Department and has no tolerance for antisemitism or Islamophobia in the workplace. He encouraged anyone seeing, hearing or experiencing discrimination or hate to report it to their manager, union representative or the city’s equity office.
“It's definitely not my place to be offering opinions on the conflict right now, or the history of the conflict in the Middle East Israeli-Palestinian situation,” Mochrie said on the Oct. 26 meeting, which is viewable on a staff website and on a hidden link at the city’s YouTube page.
He said city hall "supports the notion that everybody who wants to live their life and peace deserves that opportunity, that everybody deserves respect, that everybody deserves to feel safe in their home, in their community and at work.”
Former city councillor and 2022 mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick wondered if Mochrie’s original Oct. 10 memo was necessary. Rather than stick to its local responsibilities, she said city hall has often waded into geopolitics since the 1983 declaration of Vancouver as a nuclear weapons-free zone.
“That was what got the ball rolling and the city delving into things that are outside its scope,” Hardwick said.
On Monday, Mochrie announced the hiring of a new chief equity officer, lawyer Susanna Tam.
Tam replaces Aftab Erfan, who was paid $179,971 in 2022. Erfan left in September after three years to become executive director of the Simon Fraser University Morris Wosk Centre for Dialogue.