Grand Forks mayor Frank Konrad is backtracking on controversial comments made at a 2015 committee of the whole meeting following a CBC story that aired Monday morning.
At a 2015 Committee of the Whole meeting Grand Forks mayor Frank Konrad voted against supporting bringing Syrian refugees to Grand Forks on the basis that some “can be pedophiles, terrorists.”
The meeting was video recorded and posted online by Les Johnson of GFTV. The Gazette has verified the recording.
“These individuals can come in as assumed refugees, but are in fact not. They can be pedophiles, terrorists,” he said over an exclamation of “wow” by Coun. Colleen Ross. “I am just putting it out there,” he continued.
“Immigration Canada has had people fall through the cracks before,” Konrad also said in his remarks.
Ross brought forward the late item to the agenda, making the motion that council supports agencies in the Boundary “in the process of sponsoring refugees from the Syrian crisis.”
When reached for comment on Monday morning, Konrad said the comments no longer represent his opinion and he was responding to media hype around refugees at the time.
“The intention of the wording was that there could be pedophiles and terrorists coming in under the guise of Syrian refugees … It was never the intention to say that the refugees were pedophiles or terrorists,” Konrad said.
“At this point I would vote for [the motion], because the situation was much more traumatic and sensitive at the time than it is at this point in time,” he said. “It is a whole different ballgame now.”
The meeting minutes note discussion about “infiltration” and safety issues, but in keeping with practice does not attribute the remarks to a specific member of council.
Konrad vehemently denied that his comments were racist.
“I do not have one racist bone in my body, I do not have any kind of racism or animosity towards any ethic group, any race, creed or colour and I never have,” he said. “If that is the interpretation being taken, anyone can call it racist or prejudice but that is not the intent whatsoever and I do not feel that was a racist statement.”
The motion was carried at that meeting.
The statement was made just days after the body of Syrian toddler Ala Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, sparking international outrage and a new consciousness of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Konrad denied any connection between his comment concerning “pedophiles” and “terrorists,” and a comment similar in tone made by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump four months before on the campaign trail.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said in June 2015.
Konrad said he was unsure how the comment came forward nearly two years later.
When reached by the Gazette, CBC Daybreak reporter Chris Walker said that while he was reluctant to speak publicly about a story, a listener brought the comment to his attention in relation to another story. He declined to say who or in relation to what story.
“The whole situation with the refugees has changed, now and it is not as much of a hype as it was in those times,” Konrad said. “If the CBC has nothing better to do with their time than to dig up two-year-old issues, then I think they are struggling for news reporting, that is my comment.”