A veteran Vancouver police officer has criticized a B.C. cabinet minister who spoke in favour of religious freedom for Muslims. Over social media, Sgt. Kam Mahinsa accused Bowinn Ma of advocating for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s agents in her message wishing peace in the sacred month of Muharram.
Moreover, Mahinsa alleged that these agents are “disguised as peaceful Canadians practicing their religion”. The sergeant’s post provided no proof of this allegation.
Ma is the minister of emergency management and climate readiness. In the July 20 statement, she noted that freedom of religion, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right. Furthermore, she stated that this is protected under Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Sadly, Muslim community members across Canada, including those who worship at the Ghadir Cultural and Educational Centre in North Vancouver, have faced threats, harassment, and bigotry,” Ma declared. “This is unacceptable.”
Freedom of religion, including the ability to worship in peace & security, is a universal human right. Targeting or harassing individuals on the basis of faith or place of worship alone is unacceptable in 🇨🇦. I wish all Muslims in #NorthVan and beyond a peaceful #Muharram. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/KYUPVqLRSO
— Bowinn Ma (@BowinnMa) July 21, 2023
Muslims spat on, threatened, and assaulted
Ma isn’t the first to express concerns about violence targeted at Muslim worshippers in North Vancouver.
Last November, North Vancouver RCMP announced that officers had “made several arrests” after approximately 50 people had gathered at the Ghadir Cultural and Educational Centre. They were there to disrupt a planned service. According to the Mounties, “several worshippers were spat on, threatened and assaulted”.
In her July 20 message, Ma stated: “Threats of harassment targeted towards Muslim communities will not be tolerated in the Province of British Columbia. We will always stand up for the right to practice one’s faith peacefully.”
In his reply, Mahinsa claimed that Ma’s “beautiful message” was “very much in line with the government’s naïve and uninformed approach to Islamic Republic’s foreign terrorist activities in Western countries”.
“I ask you, if Iran was to send their agents to Canada, what would they pose as?” Mahinsa asked. “A religious center? Students? Reporters? Business people?”
Mahinsa justifies wearing uniform at politicial protests
Ma responded that peaceful protest is one thing. However, she wrote that targeted “harassment, stalking, and assault of individuals based on where they choose to worship is another”.
“Vigilante justice is not acceptable in Canada and as a police officer I know you know that,” Ma added.
Mahinsa is no stranger to taking a political stance. In a recent interview with Roqe Media CEO and executive producer Jian Ghomeshi, the VPD officer said that he views his police uniform as a “platform”.
He also explained why he wears his uniform while participating in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. According to Mahinsa, one of the pillars of the Vancouver Police Department is “community engagement”. And his actions in his uniform reflect his commitment “to stand with my community”.
“I’ve never received any official permission to appear in uniform,” Mahinsa acknowledged.
He also told Ghomeshi that “I’ve been asked a few times ‘How is it that they allow you in uniform to march with people? How is it that they allow you to take a political stance?’
“And my answer is very simple,” Mahinsa continued. “I stand with my community. I stand with my community—and that’s it. It’s very simple, as simple as it gets.”
Ghomeshi then asked how he might interact with any supporters of the Islamic regime in Vancouver.
“Jian, they’re not my people,” Mahinsa replied. “My people are the ones who are protesting. My people are the ones who are dying.”
Sgt. Kam Mahinsa talks about wearing his uniform at demonstrations at 35:30 of this video.
Other VPD officers jump into political fray
Mahinsa was the first police officer of Iranian ancestry hired by the Vancouver Police Department. According to a 2020 post on the VPD Facebook account, his family immigrated to Vancouver in the late 1980s to escape the Iran-Iraq war.
“By being a positive role model in the community, I have inspired many young adults from my ethnic community to consider a law enforcement career who would not have otherwise considered it,” Mahinsa wrote at the time. “It fills me with pride when I see these young men and women have become compassionate and competent police officers.”
Mahinsa’s decision to engage in political activities while employed as a police officer is not unique. One of his colleagues, Terry Yung, was a staff sergeant when he sat on the Vancouver NPA board as it selected its 2018 slate of candidates. Yet another VPD officer, Mark Christensen, denounced then mayor Kennedy Stewart in a tweet in 2021.And last year, the Vancouver Police Union endorsed ABC Vancouver mayoral candidate Ken Sim.
It's an honour to have received the endorsement of the union representing Vancouver's Police.
— Mayor Ken Sim (@KenSimCity) October 5, 2022
B.C.’s Police Act does not limit political activities by officers.
However, under Section 77(3)(a)(iii) it’s an “abuse of authority” if a uniformed officer, off or on duty, uses “profane, abusive or insulting language”. This includes language “that tends to demean or show disrespect” to a person “on the basis of their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age or economic and social status”.