First a little refresher for you. This is an issue that began in 2008, when Orono resident Jim Richards was banned from speaking at Clarington council meetings after saying the Durham regional chairman acted like a "bully". Mayor Abernethy said he could come back if he apologized; Mr. Richards refused.
You should also know that Mr. Jim Richards was given an important Provincial Citizenship Award in 2008, and Mayor Abernethy then gave him a Clarington Award a few weeks later. The very next week the Mayor first told Mr. Richards he couldn't use the word "bully" in describing the actions of Regional Chair Anderson toward a resident the previous week (which had brought the resident to tears), and would have to retract his statement, which he was not allowed to even finish. Mr. Richards refused to retract, and the Mayor made him sit down. He later told Mr. Richards to leave Council Chambers when Mr. Richards stated he would not be giving a written apology to Council for his statement, and was banned from making further delegations to Council until he made such an apology.
Mr. Richards went to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and in 2009 the CCLA indicated council's action might "infringe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms". In March 2009, council voted to rescind the earlier decision to ban Mr. Richards. Matter closed? Not quite.
On April 26, 2010, Jim Richards' presentation supporting direct election of the Chair of Durham Region was cut short, after Mr. Richards suggested once again, in his opinion, that the present Regional Chair is a bully.
Clarington Council has refused to apologize, or to follow the advice of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seems some of them have a very short memory. I don't believe the Charter has changed in the interval between last year and this year.
So Jim Richards, who has twice been banned from speaking at Clarington council for referring to the Regional Chair as a "bully", is continuing with his lawsuit against the Municipality of Clarington, because he believes the municipality has violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But due to the civil liberties issues to be dealt with by the CCLA after the G20 in Toronto, will not be able to assist Jim in his endeavour for an apology until sometime next year. With the elections only a short time away, Jim would like to see this matter dealt with before the current council.
Below is a letter written by Jim seeking public support and assistance for his legal challenge. I plan on donating and I hope you will consider doing so as well.
FREEDOM of SPEECH
For those of you following this issue; both, those supporting the Mayor, (Councillors Trim, Novak, Robinson and Hooper) and those supporting Jim Richards and Freedom of Speech, please allow me to set the record straight.
I commend Councillors Adrian Foster, and Willie Woo for remaining committed to citizens rights. That is not to say that both or either of them condone my use of the word "bully", but only that they support my right to use it.
Two years ago, Mayor Abernethy not only stopped me from finishing a delegation to Council because I used the word "bully", to describe in part, and in my opinion, the actions of our unelected Regional Chair. Roger Anderson, but he asked me to rescind my comment and I refused. In addition to being silenced at that particular meeting, the Mayor and associates then went on to ban me from speaking at future meetings.
This was in direct violation of our rights as provided for by the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I enlisted help from the Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc., (CCLA) and they pointed this out in a letter to the Mayor and Council.
Subsequently, I was invited back to speak and at that time, a number of councillors who understand that freedom of speech is a basic tenet of a free and democratic society offered their apologies. None was forthcoming from Mayor Abernethy however. I had already lost respect for him due to his handling (bungling) of the incinerator issue, but now, I had lost respect for him as a man, a leader and a person.
This past April, during a delegation regarding direct election of the Regional Chair, I again referred to Chair Anderson as acting like a bully, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, the mayor once again curtailed my delegation and asked me to take back the remark. I refused. Again, he would not let me complete my delegation at a duly called meeting of Council.
Can you believe this is Canada? Can you believe it's 2010? What are Canadian men and women fighting for in Afghanistan if not freedom?
I returned to Council in May and asked the Mayor for an apology. He smugly refused. The Mayor did however ask town solicitor Dennis Hefferon for a legal opinion on the matter. Mr. Hefferon informed the Mayor that the section of the Procedural By-law he was using to curtail my rights as a citizen was ambiguous, and that it would not stand up in a court of law. In spite of this, Abernethy still refused to apologize.
At a council meeting on July 12, 2010 Councillor Foster made a motion, seconded by Councillor Woo asking the Mayor for an apology on my behalf. Abernethy refused. At this meeting, the Mayor and Council were in receipt of yet a second letter from CCLA pointing out the error of their ways.
I will now launch a potentially costly lawsuit against Mayor Abernethy and the Municipality of Clarington for infringement on my rights, but I need financial assistance. "I'm setting up a 'legal defence fund' and would ask you to consider a donation (big or small) to teach not only Mayor Abernethy but all other political bullies that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in a free and democratic society".
If you care to contribute, please contact me at the email address below. You can use the same address to simply offer best wishes, or tell me to go to hell! You can also contact the Mayor and Council and tell them what you think of their draconian behaviour (or offer support for the Mayor if you wish) by sending an email to the Municipal Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org
If I win this lawsuit, I will be in a position to pay back your donations. If I lose, we all lose; not just the money, but our freedom of speech and expression in Clarington!
I have set up a bank account at C.I.B.C in Orono (Account #8254931, Transit #04742) and you can visit any CIBC branch to donate, or I will accept donations by mail at: J. Richards, P.O. Box 442, Orono, ON, L0B 1M0. Make all donations out to Jim Richards (you can put 'legal Defence Fund' in the memo line). I have enlisted a third party to oversee this account.
Email Jim: email@example.com
or phone: 905-983-5605
Also see: "Clarington mayor refuses to apologize, freedom of speech debate escalates" (Metroland, May 5, 2010) and "Free speech exists in Clarington council chambers too" (Metroland Editorial, May 6, 2010)