PUBLIC STATEMENT: Bullying, Harassment and Social Media

We believe as a community we need to respond to bullying, harassment, and toxic behaviour, often amplified by social media groups, in our community.

At the start of November, we made a decision to limit commenting on posts on our official Facebook Page in an attempt to limit inappropriate behaviour.

The City has a legal obligation to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, not only for our employees, but for Council as well. One that is free of bullying and harassment. Unfortunately, toxic posts on social media, while offensive online, sometime spill over into the real world creating very real fears of physical harm.

A small group of individuals, and one individual in particular, have repeatedly engaged in inappropriate conduct directed towards staff and Council. Last year The RCMP were engaged, resulting in one individual, Christopher Bruce Inglis, being ordered by Judge Doerksen to enter into a Recognizance pursuant to S. 810(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada in October of 2020, for a period of 9 months. This morning we see this individual once again targeting the City, now that the term of the Recognizance has expired. The Recognizance is a matter of public record and is available to anyone who may ask.

CAO Michael Boronowski says, “It’s become all too regular for the Mayor, Council, and staff, myself included, to discover our reputations being dragged through the mud on social media. This bullying online spills over into the real world too. It’s unacceptable that we’ve had to speak to our loved ones, our children, about what car to watch out for, or when not to go outside. It’s unacceptable that we have been followed from workplace to workplace, recorded while we work, or in our yards and homes, and followed as private citizens as we try to go about our lives in the community.”

Mayor Qualizza says, “Our goal is to make sure people feel safe engaging us in meaningful ways, so shifting people away from Facebook activism towards our Let’s Talk Fernie platform is an important step. Being in public office and serving your community is an absolute privilege, and I ask that you help us keep our local online behaviour safe so people will continue to want to serve our community as your elected Council. I also want to reaffirm my support for our continued commitment to a safe working environment for both staff and council.”

For Mr. Inglis, in particular, to suggest today that no bullying or harassment takes place for City staff and Council is disingenuous at best. His Recognizance speaks for itself.

It is perfectly acceptable for any citizen of Fernie to criticize the actions of elected officials; in whatever medium they may choose. It is not acceptable for anyone to engage in bullying, harassing and other toxic behaviour, whether online, or in the “real” world. That people are made to feel unsafe at work, at home, or out in our community isn’t OK - we all have a responsiblity to do all that we can to prevent that from happening.

We are asking every member of our community to join us in turning our backs on online bullying and harassment.