Friday, April 04, 2008

 

As the 600th posting: a victory for the citizens of Powell River BC

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This report from "Lynx" brings good news of a Citizens' Victory ... a fitting story to mark the occasion of the 600th headline posting on The Legislature Raids. Lynx wrote:


The winds are changing - I think there are a lot of people who are as mad as hell and just not going to take it anymore. The Powell River Peak was flooded with letters. They published a sampling of them. But here's the really good part: The BC Civil Liberties Association is demanding the mayor and crew publicly apologize to the three people they threatened with lawsuits. ( I've enclosed the article below.) Even better news ...the PR Council has called for a halt on the Independent Power Projects. Yahooooooo! The Plutonic Power guys not at all happy about this - as you can imagine.
(The quote from the judge at end of this article is absolutely wonderful to read.) - Lynx


Rights group demands apology

Laura Walz -- Peak Editor
04/03/2008


BC Civil Liberties Association is calling on the City of Powell River to publicly renounce its threat of legal action against three residents.


"I think they should not just walk away from this," said John Dixon, a member of the BCCLA executive committee. "I think that it would be very good for them to publicly renounce their threat of legal action against the three people who criticized the conduct of their office. They may not like that and we certainly can't force them to legally do it, but I think they owe that to people."

The BCCLA executive committee met Monday night, March 31 and discussed the issue. Dixon said the BCCLA fully supports the Powell River residents who received letters from the city's lawyer. "I am drafting a letter for the city explaining our legal position and pointing out the importance of them moving quickly to apologize to the residents who have been threatened with these baseless lawsuits," he said. "We will certainly suggest to the council that they may feel it useful and helpful for us to come up so they can ask us questions."


At least three Powell River residents, Councillor Patricia Aldworth, Noel Hopkins and Win Brown, have received letters from the city's lawyer threatening legal action if they didn't retract and apologize for their comments. At the March 11 council meeting, Brown retracted a one sentence comment he made on the Peak's website. But Hopkins, who wrote a letter to the editor published in the Peak, and Aldworth, who was threatened with legal action because of one sentence in an email, have refused.


The city's action is one of the worst abuses of political power, Dixon said. "You are in government. You have all the wealth of the community at your disposal as well as legal counsel, and when you should be attending ultimately to those whose representatives you are and to whose interests ultimately you serve, you use that power to bully them into silence, that's an outrageous abuse of governmental power."

The strategic use of the threat of libel action, or SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) actions, when employed by individual politicians to silence criticism of their political conduct, is one of the sadder relics of provincial politics in British Columbia, Dixon explained.

"The spectacle of a legislative representative of the citizenry wielding the wealth and power of government to chill the democratic forum from which they should be seeking direction would be 'bad optics.' In Powell River, however, we have the monstrous spectacle of the entire corporate body of the city, the government of Powell River, resorting to the treat of SLAPP suits to shut down criticism of the conduct of its office."


One of the things that is particularly bad about SLAPP law suits, Dixon added, is that generally the whole purpose is not to go to court, not to follow through, but simply to "terrify by the prospect of proceedings that would be so expensive that they're ruinous to most individual people. So, they're silenced. It's the libel chill, as Americans put it, that is most insidious and most democratically destructive."


Aldworth told the Peak she has made a formal request to city hall to release to the public information, including in-camera meeting minutes, that deal with the issue.


"I have done this because, to date, the city and the city's solicitor have refused to respond to questions from the public," Aldworth said. "The public's trust can only be restored through open and honest communication. Further dithering, with respect to providing such information, only casts a larger shadow over this whole sad affair."

She hopes that the city will provide the information required to answer the question of who is responsible for what many citizens see as a regrettable attempt to bully and harass the citizenry, Aldworth added. "Release of such information would be a major step toward bringing closure to this issue and allowing the important issues facing this city to be dealt with in a less distracting fashion," she said.


Mayor Stewart Alsgard declined to comment because he has not seen BCCLA's letter.



John Dixon, an executive member of the BC Civil Liberities Association, provided this decision by Justice Corbett:
"Speech About Government Is Absolutely Privileged: The reason for the prohibition of defamation suits by government lies not with the use of taxes, or with some abstruse theory about the indivisibility of the state and the people who make up the state. Rather, it lies in the nature of democracy itself. Governments are accountable to the people through the ballot box, and not to judges or juries in courts of law. When a government is criticized, its recourse is in the public domain, not the courts. The government may not imprison, or fine, or sue, those who criticize it. The government may respond. This is fundamental. Litigation is a form of force, and the government must not silence its critics by force." - Justice Corbett, Halton Hills (Town) v. Kerouac, Ontario Superior Court 2006

┬ęThe Powell River Peak 2008

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Special thanks go to a independent, principled newspaper, Powell River Peak, a cornerstone of democracy which clearly makes a big difference in situations like this. It should be compared to the Terrace item posted below. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
Three cheers and a Hip, Hip, Hooray for the maligned and persecuted citizens of Powell River who have stood up and refused to be shut down by these fear tactics. Other politicians, in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as the Powell River Council, should re-read and consider Justice Corbett's words:

"Governments are accountable to the people through the ballot box, and not to judges or juries in courts of law. When a government is criticized, its recourse is in the public domain, not the courts. The government may not imprison, or fine, or sue, those who criticize it."

More folks like the Powell River Peak and some locals need to stand up to this bullying and essentially say "Sue Me or STFU"* and STFU is the best choice. The opinion/views of the citizenry is the foundation of democracy - without its expression there is no democracy. The voters certainly have the right to evaluate the performance of those they elected to SERVE THEM (the voters, not themselve)and share the conclusions that issue from these evaluations.

* In the unlikely event some reader isn't familiar with the acronym STFU, the 'S' is for "shut" and the 'U' is the first letter of "up."
 
Express Collision Shop Said,

Good news is needed. I was thinking about all the bad news that I was telling concerned bloggers about last night. During all the news casts last night regarding scandals involving the former solicitor general, was a great good news story. How about that butcher in Toronto. Sharing his winnings with his customers, big time. I would love to make beer can chicken with that guy. This guy cheered me up big time.

Check out an article in the Sun this morning about the provincial FOI mess(page a15). Very disturbing.
 
"Bingo!" ;-), kootcoot, when you write:

"The opinion/views of the citizenry is the foundation of democracy - without its expression there is no democracy. The voters certainly have the right to evaluate the performance of those they elected to SERVE THEM (the voters, not themselve)and share the conclusions that issue from these evaluations."

This is FUNDAMENTAL as Justice Corbett stated. And when the Justice adds:

"Litigation is a form of force, and the government must not silence its critics by force."

....it is evident that this was, as kootcoot notes, definitely bullying of the worst kind and cowardly as well, I think...this refusal of those "we elect" to accept criticism, answer questions, or to be held acccountable to the people in any way.

These are strange and perverse days for democracy...but many of us have had enough. ENOUGH.


Always read your informative comments as well, Express Collision Shop...thanks for the light you shine.

Special thanks to BC Mary for highlighting this issue.
 
IT MIGHT HELP IF CERTAIN ELECTED OFFICIALS WERE FUNCTIONALLY LITERATE. THEN THEY COULD LOOKUP ACCOUNTABILITY/TREASON!
 
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Greetings i'm fresh to this, I stumbled upon this site I have found It quite accessible and it's helped me a lot. I should be able to give something back and support other people like its helped me.

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