In an attempt to clamp down on public voices of dissent from town staffers, volunteers, committee members and even councillors themselves, the Town Of Midland is trying to enact restraints against freedom of speech and expression.
Before we continue let’s just review section two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Constitution Act of 1982.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
At a council meeting discussing the new proposed draft policy, Councillor File (a lawyer by trade) is reported to have objected and noted:
“It says as a representative of the Town of Midland you’re expected to support the policies, programs and decisions of the municipality and not publicly criticize the council, municipality or municipal partners, including public agencies or other levels of government,” she said. “We’re actually now trying to suggest people can’t even be critical of another level of government? I am not sure we can restrict committee and board members.… Does that mean you now give up your right to be critical of anything political?”
Councillor, and former Mayor George MacDonald disagreed with File’s take on the matter and seems to be championing this policy.
As concerned as Council seems to be about ballooning legal fees, it is hard to imagine that such a policy would be enacted given the obvious breach of section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The costs of defending this ill-conceived attempt to muzzle dissenting voices in the community, some of which may be town employees themselves, will come at a high cost to the Town and be easily defended in any Canadian Court.
If the attempts to control the usage of social media and other means of criticizing the town or policies are aimed at on-duty employees, using town-resources then they may be able to make a case. Employees are advised to govern themselves accordingly. In addition, it is also good advice to ensure that no connection can be made between your employment/employer and your personal views and rights to express them as an individual. You should not use work accounts, work resources, be seen in your work uniform or clothing, or engage in any activity that could cause you problems while on work time or at the workplace.
If you follow these simple rules, you can effectively break any link between your work and your personal life and enjoy the freedoms afforded to you as a Canadian Citizen.
Some types of employment actually can prohibit employees from participating in political debate or commentary both on and off duty, such as positions where impartiality are core values associated with that employment. Examples would include members of the judiciary, police officers and several other professions.
OurMidland.ca has many town employees, among hundreds of other community members not directly employed by the Town of Midland, who participate either through aliases or by contributing directly on this website so the comment or content is not directly attributable to them. In addition we offer a tip form that allows people to communicate anonymously with our communications team to help provide information about our stories and articles.
With the increase in public awareness over Town of Midland and Council issues as of late, it seems oddly coincidental that this policy is being considered now and that the Town’s first draft had egregious potential violations to fundamental freedoms enjoyed by all Citizens. Perhaps the second draft will be less controversial.
Click here to read the story in the Midland Mirror. We will be following this policy after it comes back from town staff and is again presented to Council for consideration.