Bob Day, a councillor in Lake Cowichan, was harassed twice at his workplace last week. (File photo)

Councillor and other local government officials tell of increasing harassment

Day talked about his experience at a workshop at the Union of B.C. Municipalities

Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day knows it sometimes takes a thick skin to be a politician.

But Day, who is also vice-chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said two incidents on consecutive days last week in which a man from Lake Cowichan harassed and intimidated him at his workplace in a local grocery store was a bit more than he bargained for. The man created a placard, and followed Day around, making defamatory comments.

Day said the man had a “difference of opinion” with council regarding a traffic issue in Lake Cowichan and chose him to take it out on.

“I’ve worked there for 10 years and this man shops there almost every morning,” he said.

“His actions weren’t specifically directed at me, but at the council as a whole, and he knew where I worked. I tried to ignore him, but it was hard to do.”

Day said he has only had one other incident in which he was directly harassed by someone due to politics in his 10 years on Lake Cowichan’s council and four years as a director with the CVRD.

“About seven years ago, a man entered my workplace and verbally assaulted me over a zoning issue that was before council,” he said.

“Again, his issue wasn’t against me personally, but with council. Local politicians are the people on the ground and, because they can’t see the premier every day, many look to us to right all the wrongs and we take the brunt when people are upset.”

Day told his story to a large crowd at a workshop at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting being held in Vancouver this week dealing with the rise of incivility in local government, and the conduct of the public toward elected officials and municipal staff.

FOR RELATED STORY, CLICK HERE

Day said while actual physical acts of harassment and intimidation have been rare against him, social media is another story.

He said he, and many other local politicians, frequently face a barrage of criticism and personal attacks on a fairly regular basis through social media.

“It’s often over a difference of opinion on the issue, but many just don’t want to hear the other side to the story,” Day said.

“It’s something we face on a regular basis. I think these type of issues often dissuade good people from running for public office because they don’t want to be in the public eye.”

Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the CVRD, recalls only one incident about 12 years ago when he was harassed in a public place.

Like Day, it was in a grocery store.

“The man threatened my family,” Lefebure said.

“I have no idea who he was and I never saw him again, but it was very upsetting. What I have seen recently is an increase in attacks against politicians on social media.”

Lefebure said his personal policy is to avoid most social media, and even e-mails, that he considers uncivil, and he advises other politicians and municipal staff to do the same.

“Some people believe that social media has given them the licence to be very harsh and not deal with the issues, but to attack the people involved,” he said.

“If people ask me questions civilly, I’ll usually respond, but if they aren’t civil, I won’t respond to them. I like to be optimistic and I think that, in the future, limits will be placed on social media to deal with these issues.”

Just Posted

Trail and area artists eligible for arts training grant

Grant to support learning for visual and performance artists

New affordable housing in the works for East Trail

The proposal involves tearing down the old McBride Manor house and building a “nine-plex”

Snow hosts available to help you explore the Rossland Range

Safe and responsible way to learn about Rossland Recreation Site

Support for Music Heals Program in Trail

The music therapy program for seniors runs in Columbia View Lodge

South Columbia SAR hoping season stays relatively quiet

Group has responded to four calls so far this winter

First Nation supporters march to Horgan’s MLA office

Dozens marched across the Greater Victoria community of Langford to support the Wet’suwet’en people

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson ‘feeling good’ after knee injury

Pettersson said he wasn’t feeling any pain during Wednesday’s skate

Kentucky canoe outfit borrows photo of Trudeau family to market business

They are in a red canoe, all clad in life jackets, and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Ella-Grace are waving

Ratfish generates social media buzz on Vancouver Island

Boneless, glowing creature a common bycatch, but it usually stays in deep waters – fish expert

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Most Read