Letter to the editor 2, April 25, 2019

Dysfunctional democracy

Dear Editor,

Regarding the reactions to Councillor Richard Chartrand’s short-lived suspension from Saint-Lazare’s council for aggressive behaviour towards a town employee and Councillor Pamela Tremblay’s resignation on the grounds that she felt disrespected and bullied on the council, I’m concerned that there are people in our community who regard bullying and verbal abuse as being acceptable.

Mr. Chartrand himself has described his outburst as “very aggressive.” Subsequent reports have detailed insults, vulgarity, and invitations to physical violence. All this goes way beyond what is acceptable in any workplace today. And yet, it has been quickly excused by Mr. Chartrand’s fellow councillors and supporters. The general view seems to be: he’s apologized so let’s forget about it.

To all of you who are trivializing Mr. Chartrand’s outburst: just stop and think how you would feel if behaviour like this was directed at you in your workplace, or at your children in their school. Would it still be acceptable?

When Ms. Tremblay resigned because she no longer wished to work within what she describes as the “disrespectful” atmosphere on the council, she was the subject of insulting comments on the electronic media – an ironic illustration of what happens in a society where verbal abuse is accepted and tolerated. Equally bothersome is the somewhat arrogant public reaction of her fellow councillors who, instead of expressing regret that Ms. Tremblay was made to feel this way, dismissed it as irrelevant on the grounds that they, as the majority, “didn’t see it as a bullying situation”.

I for one am beginning to wonder if, in electing this group of councillors as a block, we have simply exchanged one ‘clique’ for another. They have closed ranks around Mr. Chartrand and steamrollered over Ms. Tremblay’s very serious allegations. They appear to view her resignation as a positive thing because it leaves room for a replacement who will agree with their ideas and not cause friction. It’s hardly an illustration of the open-minded approach needed for a democracy to function properly.

There are some hardworking people on the council and they seem to have the best interests of our town at heart. However, I think they have dropped the ball in their handling of the situations involving Mr. Chartrand and Ms. Tremblay, and in their trivialization of aggressive behaviour.

Perhaps all of them, without exception, need to do some soul-searching about their personal attitudes towards bullying and verbal abuse, the values they are promoting by minimizing its importance, and the example they are setting by allowing things to continue as if nothing had happened.

Bullying and abuse in any shape or form are unacceptable, period. There are no “ifs” and “buts”.

Christine Gardner


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