Banning people who harass city council members is the right response

Democracy should not be an excuse for harassment

Surrey City Hall. (file photo)

Surrey City Hall. (file photo)

Recently, the Surrey City Council has passed a motion to prevent the attendance of a few residents due to repeated verbal harassment and inappropriate comments during in-person council meetings. Many critics have judged this motion and have noted that barring these individuals is an anti-democratic move. 

Canada is a democracy. It is ruled by a government by which the power falls onto the people either directly or indirectly through elected representatives. The freedom of thought, opinion, and speech is promoted, which is one of the reasons why Canada is seen as such an appealing country to live in. 

The event of these council members being barred from in-person meetings, followed by the criticism on how undemocratic this is, is quite a touchy subject. Many people can feel a variety of ways about this. While the safety of other council members is important, many believe that following democratic ways is the better and far superior choice. 

I disagree. 

As Mayor Doug McCallum noted in an interview with the CityNews, “Our democracy provides for freedom of thought, opinion and speech, but when the discourse devolves into aggressive and disorderly behavior, we must ensure that Council and City staff are able to carry out their duties without fear of verbal assault and harassment.”

This is true. While the council has barred these people from coming in person, it hasn’t taken their right of thought and speech away from them. This plan simply substitutes the in-person presence by allowing them to voice their opinions through better methods. 

These methods ensure the safety of the other council members who are in fear of being verbally assaulted and harassed by insulting members, such as submitting their statements and comments through writing.

It is not fair for the victims of this harassment to have to suffer through insults and inappropriate comments. 

While these barred members may not be happy about this, the banning will likely make for a better and more welcoming and safe environment for the meetings going forward, and doing so will create a safer environment where better decisions can be made.

If a member is constantly getting insulted, this might impact their mental health which can impact the decisions made in these council meetings. Overall, it potentially affects how it would influence our society moving forward.

Democracy gives people the right to their thoughts, opinions, and speech, but this should not give others an excuse to create an unsafe and discriminating environment. Not only does it go against movements meant to stop these types of behaviours, but it abuses the idea of democracy and what Canada stands for.