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Abbotsford school trustee who compared masks to slavery steps away temporarily

Last Updated May 7, 2021 at 11:45 am PDT

Abbotsford School Trustee Phil Anderson (Courtesy: Abbotsford School District)
Summary

Trustee Phil Anderson shared a Facebook post comparing mask-wearing to slavery

Abbotsford school board says post is not reflective of its position on the B.C. mask mandate

Anderson has apologized, removed post; board says he will undergo training 'to build a better understanding' of issues

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) – A member of the Abbotsford school board has temporarily stepped away from his duties after sharing a Facebook post comparing mask-wearing to slavery.

In a message posted on the board’s website, Chair Dr. Stan Petersen says the board became aware of Trustee Phil Anderson’s “offensive” post on Thursday.

“We emphatically state that this is not reflective of our Board’s position on the provincial mask mandate,” Petersen said.

The B.C. mask mandate requires all K to 12 staff and students in Grades 4 to 12 wear masks in all indoor areas, with some exceptions.

Last week, Anderson shared a meme depicting a disposable mask as a flag, with the words “The flag of slavery” written above. The post, which has now been deleted, drew several comments, calling it a “offensive, “strange,” and “odd.”

One person wrote, “To compare wearing a mask to slavery is appalling.”

“As a descendent of slaves I find that this post moves past hyperbole to offensive!” another wrote. “Slaves were shackled, beaten, lynched, they were forced to procreate and then have their children ripped from them to be sold, raped, beaten, lynched, starved and a myriad of other horrific things. Asking someone to wear a mask is asking them to be kind and considerate. Masks won’t have to be worn for 400 years.”

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Petersen says Anderson has “agreed to temporarily step away from his duties to take training to build a better understanding of these issues. In addition, he has agreed to apologize and take down the posts in question and refrain from using social media at this time.”

On Friday, Anderson posted an apology:

“Friends, Unfortunately, I have shared posts on my profile that were ill conceived, and I deeply regret my actions. Please understand that at this time I am removing access to my Facebook account, and related social media. Please know that my actions are not reflective of our Board’s position. Thank you for your understanding, and again, my apologies.”

Anderson had also previously shared other posts against public health restrictions, including one meme of a scene from the film The Shawshank Redemption with the words “What are you in for? Trying to go camping.”

Petersen says the school board is “fundamentally committed to providing a safe, equitable and inclusive environment for all our students, staff and families.”

“The Board is strongly committed to anti-racism, and opposes hate in any form. In addition, we remain committed to fully implementing the provincial public health and safety procedures, and strongly support the work of our staff who have been dedicated to our students throughout the pandemic,” he added in his statement.