Tonight will be the first meeting of the month for the Fort Frances council, after the previously scheduled one was cancelled due to an absence of a clerk. The next council meeting will be on Nov. 8.
The Committee of the Whole meeting will begin with a report from Darrell Matson, delegated integrity commissioner for the Town of Fort Frances. The report is a result of a complaint submitted on Dec. 17, 2020, against Coun. Douglas Judson.
The complainant accused Judson of breaching the Code of Conduct by referring to an anonymous author of a letter to the editor as a “white senior citizen.”
The first integrity commissioner dismissed most of the complaint, but found that Judson breached one Code by attributing the words of the letter to a “white senior citizen.” The commissioner found that Judson’s words are discriminatory.
The initial integrity commissioner recused himself after demonstrating bias and recused himself from proceeding with the complaint, according to Asher Honisckman, Judson’s lawyer.
However, Matson also found the complaints against Judson to be unsubstantiated, with the exception of Judson reattributing a public statement by a “Flinders Place Resident” to a “White Senior Citizen.”
In conclusion, Matson found Judson to be in breach of the Code of Conduct, saying in the report that “there are a multitude of ways to express the same core political message without making discriminatory remarks.”
Tonight’s report has recommended sanctions against Judson, and council is expected to make a vote during the public portion of the meeting. The recommendations could include a reprimand, suspension of remuneration paid to the member for up to 90 days, removal from a membership of a committee of local board, removal as chair of a Committee of Local board, requirement repayment of reimbursement of money received, return of property or reimbursement of its value, request for apology to council or request for resignation.
Council could also vote to absolve Judson.
Throughout the process, Judson said in a statement that his characterization of an anonymous critic in this manner is a matter of fact, fair comment, and legitimate political expression. He said he stands by it.
“White people are not racialized. It is offensive to suggest that the victims of racism here – in an effort to redress historic wrongs against Indigenous people – are white people with hurt feelings,” Judson wrote in an emailed statement.
Prior to the report, Judson sent a statement saying he had instructed his lawyers to launch a charter challenge and judicial review proceeding against the municipality and the integrity commissioner, if sanctions are pursued.
Town council meetings are open to the public through the Microsoft Teams platforms or the public can phone-in. To access a town council meeting, follow the instructions at the top of the agenda you would like to attend, posted at www.fortfrances.ca or call 807-274-5323 for assistance.