Statement on Integrity Commissioner Report
Charter challenge and judicial review threatened over factually incorrect, legally flawed, and unconstitutional findings
Today Councillor Douglas W. Judson made the following statement:
“On December 17, 2020, a complaint was submitted to the Integrity Commissioner of the Town of Fort Frances alleging that I had contravened the municipal Code of Conduct. The Commissioner will present his report to Council on Monday, October 25.
“The complaint consists of just two sentences. It is vexatious, an abuse of process, and ought to have been summarily dismissed on that basis. Its allegation is that I breached the Code of Conduct by criticizing opposition to efforts to address historic and systemic racism in our community and by accurately observing that most of the public record opposed to renaming Colonization Road consisted of white people and seniors.
“The Commissioner has dismissed most of the complaint. However, he has erroneously found that I breached one section of the Code by republishing the exact words of an anonymously authored letter to the editor. The ignorant letter in question was described by the Fort Frances Times as being written by an unnamed local senior’s home resident, whereas I attributed it to a ‘white senior citizen’. The Commissioner believes this was ‘discriminatory’. He is mistaken.
“My characterization of an anonymous critic in this manner is a matter of fact, fair comment, and legitimate political expression, and I stand by it. Not only was every letter Council received from an individual opposed to renaming Colonization Road sent to us from a white senior citizen, but the Commissioner has no evidence that my description of the anonymous author was incorrect. In fact, all evidence points to my correctness. The complainant is not even the author of the anonymous letter in question.
“Regardless, the Commissioner’s analysis is replete with legal errors. The Commissioner reaches his conclusion by applying incorrect and baseless definitions of discrimination from sources like Wikipedia. He gives little consideration to my Charter right to freedom of expression and fails to recognize that integrity commissioners have no jurisdiction to referee political expression.
“This complaint boils down to an effort to weaponize the Code of Conduct to intimidate elected officials who engage in reconciliation and anti-racism initiatives with strength and conviction. The Commissioner’s report presumes that ‘good’ leadership on addressing systemic racism must necessarily be that which wipes away white tears, as opposed to vigorously and critically challenging prejudices and asserts equity-interests with frankness and full-throated debate.
“Frankly, the undercurrent of ‘racism against white people’ in the Commissioner’s report is absurd. 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.
“The Commissioner’s finding amounts to tone-policing that seems to be predicated on disreputable theories of ‘reverse racism’ from nameless complainants and people unwilling to sign their names to editorial opinions. This does not merit protection by the Code. I am proud of my efforts, and I will push back against any outcome that suggests equity-seeking advocacy needs to atone for the discomfort of the privileged.
“Any sanction imposed against me by Council is outside of their jurisdiction and will constitute a clear breach of my Charter rights, which the Code of Conduct, the Commissioner, and Council are subject to. Courts have repeatedly concluded that political expression is highly protected – especially for elected officials – and can only be minimally impaired. The Commissioner has provided no sufficient justification to interfere with my political expression about opposition to reconciliation.
“Should I be sanctioned, I have instructed my lawyers to immediately launch a Charter challenge and judicial review proceeding against the municipality and the Commissioner.
“If there are members of Council or the public who take issue with my efforts or methods to fight for these causes, they are free to disagree with me. Their recourse is at the ballot box or in political debate, not with the Commissioner.
“I will have no further comments on this until Council’s meeting on October 25.”
Douglas W. Judson
Councillor, Town of Fort Frances
Councillor Judson is represented in this matter by Asher G. Honickman of the law firm Jordan Honickman. Mr. Honickman will appear at Council’s meeting of October 25, 2021.