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  • Chestermere’s new “Civil Discourse Policy” seeks to restrict your rights

    On February 16, 2021, Chestermere Council with only Councillor Foat dissenting passed Policy 654 which seeks to restrict your rights to request information from council or administration and in a fine example of gross legislative overreach gives the unelected CAO the authority to sanction individuals by denying them city services if they have the temerity to complain to, for example, your MLA or other provincial bodies. In fact, even talking to more than one councillor or city staffer about an issue could result in sanctions. Here are some of the most egregious examples:

    Section 4 d):

    “Making excessive or multiple lines of communication, such as pursuing a complaint or request with several departments of the City or contacting several members of Council, staff, or others, such as elected officials, the judiciary, the Federal or Provincial government or governmental agencies, ombudsman or law enforcement agencies, with the same issue;”

    Or, let’s have a look at 4 i) which gives them the authority to sanction you if you contact former City staff:

    “Contacting former City staff in an attempt to undermine current Council or staff;”

    It gets even more Orwellian further along in the document. If the unelected CAO determines that a citizen was not engaging in unreasonable behaviour that’s not the end of it as section 9 d) makes clear:

    “If it is determined that the person has not engaged in unreasonable behaviour, at the discretion of the CAO, the person may be informed by way of a warning letter, telephone call or other correspondence that if the person’s behaviour continues, such behaviour may constitute unreasonable behaviour for the purposes of this Policy and the City reserves the right to impose restrictions on the person in the future.”

    In other words, if you make a reasonable request but staff or council don’t like it they can threaten you with impunity.

    Let’s be clear here. City staff and council deserve to be treated with respect. However, there are already remedies for abuse and harassment. You have every right to seek information from council and staff and you have every right to contact your MLA for example if you think what the City is doing is misguided, wrong, illegal, or otherwise contrary to good governance. This right is protected by the Constitution and the City should know better.

    This Policy is nothing more or less than an attempt to ensure that council and staff can operate free of citizen oversight. It actually looks like something that could have emanated from the Chinese Communist Party. I urge everyone to read the document and let your councillors know that this is wrong and should be repealed forthwith. Note, however, you will be violating section 4 d) if you do so. Kudos to Councillor Foat for standing up for free speech.

    Peter Tindall
    Chestermere, AB