In a free and democratic society such as Canada, the public can speak their mind in many ways, through all types of social media, letters to the editor, letters to council, signage, public protests, etc.
In addition, there are legislated opportunities for the public to engage council and staff, such as open houses, and public hearings.
Council has the option in their procedures bylaw to offer other opportunities for public comment.
For example, in Summerland, the public is invited to speak for a limited time at the beginning of a council meeting and at the end prior to adjournment.
Despite these opportunities for respectful comment, over the years there has been a downward spiral in terms of what is acceptable.
This community has a stated, principled stand against bullying in all its various forms, such as intimidation, sexual harassment, verbal abuse etc.
E-mails, Facebook comments, tweets, letters to the council, telephone calls, opportunities in council to speak are all accepted forms of comment.
But some individuals take these opportunities to make rude, harassing, disgusting and potentially libellous comment.
There is an intentional effort to distort, represent opinion as fact, which when repeated frequently becomes accepted as fact.
The rhetoric of fear, intimidation, harassment, and exaggeration is a potent mix to invite fringe elements to express themselves in very harmful and potentially illegal manner.
As adult members of this community concerned about issues, there is a duty to observe the same rules that we expect from our youth, regarding bullying, and all other forms of abuse and discrimination.
In council meetings, I have witnessed bullying, disrespectful comments under one’s breath that are still heard, strong disrespectful body language, harassing commentary, etc.
All of this is meant by those individuals to intimidate those around them with differing opinions as well as the intent to threaten, or reward members of council to bend to a certain point of view.
Personally, I have been subjected to dead rats delivered to my home, bullying, verbal abuse, and disgusting graffiti, some of which the RCMP have seen fit to investigate.
This activity and has no place in a civil society.
Peter Waterman is the mayor of Summerland.