Drafting up new policies can never make everyone happy. An Ontario, Canada, township’s proposal to shield staff from abusive behavior has some residents accusing the municipality of attempting to quiet certain voices within the community.
In July 2023, Addington Highlands’ five council members were presented with a draft “Unreasonable Behaviour Policy” they had requested months before. This area serves a population of fewer than 3,000 people in the County of Lennox and Addington.
The presented policy outlines a number of actions that might be termed by the township’s chief administrative officer (CAO) as unreasonable, as well as potential restrictions that would limit a person’s ability to interact with representatives from their township.
“Unreasonable behaviour will usually arise as a result of a course of conduct (i.e. more than one instance), but a single significant incident may qualify for steps to be taken,” according to the policy.
Some consequences for the alleged offenders include communicating with the township through a third party, banning them from township properties, requiring that in-person meetings be recorded, imposing character or word limits on written communications and “limiting the member of the public’s use of township services.”
While this seems all well and good with helping to protect those working for the township against potential harassment and abusive behavior, some are saying that the policy about unreasonable behavior is rather unreasonable itself.
Marlean McLean, who ran against Henry Hogg, the township’s current reeve, in 2022’s municipal election, said that the policy is so vague that councilors “can do whatever they want with it.” “I believe they’re all egregious,” she said. “People who live in Canada have a right to question our elected officials.”
Due to this backlash, the policy, which has yet to be voted on, will review an updated version of the proposal at a meeting on November 7, 2023.