WINNIPEG — The person or persons behind posters titled “$hitler’s List” plastered a new set of leaflets around downtown Winnipeg earlier this month.
The new posters, which were quickly taken down, once again attacked Mayor Sam Katz and other mostly Jewish figures involved with City Hall.
They posters alleged that Katz and other members of the city’s business community are involved in questionable transactions. Thirteen names on the poster were crossed off, with a suggestion they need to be “terminated.”
Meanwhile, the self-described author of the posters – who remains unknown – reached out to Winnipeg’s Jewish Post & News in an Oct. 3 letter to the editor to deny that his or her intentions were antisemitic.
The individual – who went by the name “gonif” – said in the letter that people see what they want to see.
“Paranoid people saw the word “hitler” [on the poster], assumed it must be a neo-Nazi poster and called the police,” the person wrote. “Others saw the $ sign and assumed it was an ethnic slur against Jews and called B’nai Brith to get the press propaganda machine rolling and summon the politicians to express their outrage.
“Clear-headed people read the entire poster and put the title into its proper context.”
The title “$hitler’s List,” the letter-writer suggested, is a crude play on Schindler’s List, a war drama about a wily con man who wastes government money to build a useless factory to employ war captives who would otherwise have been sent to Auschwitz.
The writer said he or she believes that Katz is an equivalent of Oskar Schindler – “$hitler” – in the sense that the mayor “wastes government money to build a useless bureaucracy to employ his friends and conduct shady land deals while awarding untendered contracts to business associates instead of putting them through a competitive tendering process.
“The Winnipeg Free Press reports that the Winnipeg police major crimes unit is tracking me via the website Topix. Topix co-operates with law enforcement agencies. If they recognize a blatant hate crime, they will give you my IP – I am uncloaked,” the writer said. “Clearly, no such crime took place here. I criticized people for their actions, not because of who they are or what group they may belong to. This was a last resort after years of writing letters to government officials and getting little or no response.”
The writer also praised Jewish Post & News publisher/editor Bernie Bellan and occasional columnist Marty Gold for their “unbiased commentary” in questioning the progress of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the new institution’s ever-growing need for more funding.
The first round of flyers alleged that since Katz was elected in 2004, “hundreds of millions of dollars have been funnelled from city hall into the pockets of [certain individuals] through untendered contracts and shady land deals”
Most, but not all, the names on the list are Jewish. The Asper Family and Arni Thorsteinson (who is not Jewish) appear on the list, possibly because they have been heavily involved with building the human rights museum, which is under construction here and slated to open in 2014. Most of the other names on the list are involved in property development.
The flyer goes on to read that “the gross misconduct of the mayor’s office and city hall has gone on for too long. Firegate is the final straw that will break their backs.
“When the harsh light of scrutiny of the auditor general and the RCMP are turned towards city hall, Sam Katz will be facing hard time… and his cabal of cockroaches will be ditching their dirty money and running for cover.”
The references are to a recent controversy swirling around Katz and city hall related to some questionable land deals.
“Firegate” refers to an exchange of three pieces of city-owned land for one larger plot of land owned by a major Jewish developer who is also a close friend of the mayor.
Two of the city-owner parcels of land were occupied by mothballed fire stations, and a new, larger fire station is slated to be built on the new plot of land.
The controversy stems from the land swap being initiated by a deputy fire chief. Most city councillors were unaware of the land deal beforehand and are questioning how a deputy fire chief could make such a deal without council’s knowledge or approval.
The explanation has been that deals under $5 million don’t need to be vetted by council. But while the original deal involving all three parcels of city-owned land was valued at about $15 million, the parcels were later broken up and sold in three separate deals. The matter is being investigated.
In a statement in response to the first set of posters, Katz expressed his “extreme sadness” that an individual, or individuals, posted such material.
The Winnipeg police hate crimes unit continues to look into the matter.