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Harassment of elected officials 'quite real': veteran Island mayor

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone civility and the ability to disagree are gone in social media age
CVRD chair Aaron Stone says the harassment of elected officials is an increasing problem across Canada

The harassment of elected officials is “quite real” across the country, the chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District told the board at its meeting on June 12.

Aaron Stone, also the mayor of Ladysmith, said that it became apparent to him after meetings and discussions with other local politicians from around Canada at the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference that was held in Calgary.

He said that many elected officials are facing a lot of the same challenges, particularly in the last few years, around the interface between local politicians and the community.

“There are some pretty stark and powerful examples, particularly towards women and groups that are traditionally marginalized, either though their sexual orientation or race,” Stone said. “There are some alarming realities that are being faced, especially due to social media and the spreading of either misinformation or personal attacks through social media.”

But Stone said there is legislation being prepared at the federal level to create accountability, both on the part of social media platforms, Facebook group administrators and others, for messages that are shared that would be considered slanderous “or otherwise.”

“The civility is gone, as is the ability to disagree without impugning other people’s character or casting aspersions towards them,” he said.

“The reason I say that is because I’ve worked with so many people at this table and other tables across the country and I will say, without reservation, that despite disagreements on policy or actions that organizations and local governments take, I would say that I haven’t found a single person that I’ve worked with, no matter how vehemently I disagree with them, that aren’t good people and doing what they believe is right.”

Stone said sometimes board members can get frustrated during debates at the table, but they keep it respectful with the understanding that others at the table actually truly love their communities and are trying to do the right thing for them.

“The people around this table are good people and don’t deserve harassment, despite what you may disagree with them on in terms of policy,” he said.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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