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Memorial University of N.L. board member suspended after profane, anti-police tweet

Signage for Memorial University in St. John’s is shown on Monday, January 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly Signage for Memorial University in St. John’s is shown on Monday, January 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -

The board of regents at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador suspended one of its members Friday for tweeting "f--- the police."

Kerri Claire Neil's social media post was in response to a tweet from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary that included a "thin blue line" symbol. The symbol is considered by some a sign of police solidarity, but in recent years it has been adopted by far-right groups and criticized as an emblem of white supremacy.

"While the board understands the post was made in reaction to the RNC's use of the 'thin blue line' in their social media post, your comment was felt by many to be flippant and insensitive to the deaths of two members of the Edmonton Police Department and their families," the board said in a letter to Neil, which was shared with The Canadian Press.

Neil posted her tweet on March 17 with a screenshot of a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary tweet that showed a horizontal blue bar across a black and grey image of the Edmonton Police Service crest. The constabulary's tweet included a message of condolence for the deaths of Edmonton constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan, who were fatally shot the day before while responding to a domestic violence call.

The board said in a media release that Neil had violated its code of conduct, and that she will be suspended until her term ends on Aug. 31. Its letter to Neil said it had received complaints about her tweet from the university community as well as people in Alberta. Her comments online "reflected poorly on the university," the letter said.

Neil is part of the Social Justice Co-operative, a local non-profit that advocates for social and environmental issues. She was elected to Memorial's board of regents in 2020.

Neil's removal from Memorial's board of regents comes after Vianne Timmons, the university's president, went on paid leave for six weeks following a CBC News investigation earlier this month that raised questions about her claims of Mi'kmaq heritage. The board of regents has said it will decide what to do about the situation with the guidance of an Indigenous-led roundtable.

Memorial is also the subject of a lawsuit filed with the provincial Supreme Court alleging the school was wrong to ban a student -- Matt Barter -- from campus for three months after he stood near Timmons and held up a sign saying "STOP VlANNE! No to tuition hikes and out of control spending," as she spoke at a public event.

The case has been argued in court and is awaiting a ruling.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.

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