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Ottawa police association defends wearing controversial 'thin blue line' symbol on hockey jerseys

While the symbol has been associated with extremism and white supremacy, the police association said it's actually meant to recognize those who have died in the line of duty.
2018-07-12 ottawa police headquarters MV7
Ottawa Police Service headquarters on Elgin Street. Mike Vlasveld/ OttawaMatters

The Ottawa Police Association (OPA) is defending its members association with a controversial symbol.

The 'thin blue line' symbol was seen on members jerseys at a charity hockey game over the weekend, as well as on a flag flying outside the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) headquarters on Elgin Street.

The symbol features a horizontal blue line across a Canadian flag with the words 'thin blue line.'

Somerset Ward Coun. Ariel Troster told CityNews Ottawa it is known as an extremist symbol associated with white supremacy.

"The symbol is becoming widely recognized as a symbol of extremism," Troster said. "What I keep saying, is that racism is not about intent, it's about effect. If members of racialized communities in Ottawa are telling me and telling the police that they find that symbol to be to be frightening, it's really incumbent on the Ottawa Police Association to listen to them, especially if they want to build bridges with the community."

However, a statement by the police association said the jerseys were purchased in 2013 and that the blue line is a symbol of remembrance for fallen officers, and OPA president Matthew Cox told CityNews Ottawa he's had members of the community reach out to thank him for speaking out about what the symbol means to police.

"That's one of the reasons we're out doing all these charity events and things for the community --- we are all about building those bridges with the community," Cox said. "I've had more marginalized members reach out to me in the past two days because of this to say thank you for speaking out on what it actually means to you. We didn't know that's why you had the thin blue line. We didn't know what it was all about, so thank you for educating us. That's what we've been looking for -- education on it."

As for the symbols perceived meaning, Troster said she is not against police having a symbol for fallen officers, but feels it's time to choose a new one.

However, Cox doesn't fully agree, and believes a new jersey purchase should include the symbol.

"I don't think it needs to be the main symbol on the jersey, but somewhere on the jersey there should be something that's on there to recognize our fallen and members who have died in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice"

Alex Black

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