‘Bicycle nazis’: Winnipeg city councillor taking heat after committee meeting comment

A Winnipeg city councillor is drawing criticism for a comment he made during a city committee meeting.

Tuesday, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt referred to Bike Winnipeg delegates as “bicycle nazis” during a Public Works Committee meeting, saying “they want to take away all the lanes from the cars.”

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Bike Winnipeg Board Director, Ian McCausland, said Wyatt’s use of the word ‘nazi’ breaches the city council’s code of conduct, and the organization is calling for his removal from the committee.

“We understand that not every politician is going to align or agree with every policy idea that we put forth, but we enjoy a respectful dialog with all sorts of members of council and other levels of government. So, we just feel it’s time for, Councillor Wyatt to be removed from the committee,” he said.

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On Wednesday, Wyatt defended his position to reporters, saying he made the comment in frustration.

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When pressed on his use of the word ‘nazi’ and whether he would apologize, Wyatt wasn’t initially sure if he would issue an apology.

“If I do apologize, it would be in writing to them, because I think that’s the write way to do it,” he said.

Later that afternoon, he sent an emailed statement to Global News and said “in terms of saying ‘Bicycle Nazis’, which was not referring to any one person specifically, as is being claimed now, (as I would never call any person that name), was expressed out of a sense of frustration… but was a very poor choice of words, which I regret, and therefore at this opportunity do wish to humbly apologize for.”

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The councillor said the city has created numerous bike paths, but does not agree with traffic losing lanes to bicycles, and claims Bike Winnipeg advocates only for a small number of cyclists in the city.

“Nazi means a dictator to tell you how you’re going to live your life, right? And that’s really what it’s coming down to. You hear from them speaking in the committee, they’re saying this is how we think people should live their life, right? They shouldn’t be using their car. They have to use a bike,” he said.

In a release, Bike Winnipeg said the word ‘nazi’ means more than just dictatorship.

“Use of the term ‘Nazi’ is not only offensive, it is also harmful to generations affected by Nazi Germany’s murder of six million Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. The fact an elected official would use such language in a public meeting without immediate censure should be of concern,” it said.

Formal complaints on a councillor’s conduct are triaged and investigated. If it’s determined Wyatt did breach his obligations, city council will deliberate on any reprisal he could face.

Bike Winnipeg and Waverley West coun. Janice Lukes, have indicated they will be filing complaints to the city’s Integrity Commissioner.

— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck and Drew Stremick

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