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

Queen Charlotte fire hall is a go

Start of construction marked with groundbreaking ceremony

NCRD Board turns attention to Haida Gwaii

Fishing concerns, recreation commission, and Sandspit festival all receive focus

IV cancer treatment returning to Haida Gwaii

Arrival of a new pharmacy technician means the service can resume

Logging moves forward as court rules against Haida Gwaii protesters

Injunction won against activists seeking to protect culturally and archaeologically significant site

Bachrach one of eight endorsed by non-profit advocacy group LeadNow

LeadNow is working independently to get the climate vote out in eight different ridings

On the Wing: Reflections on forests and fog

“On Haida Gwaii it seems as though nothing has changed.”

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

‘Wham-bam out the door’: Surrey man’s front yard left ruined by scamming landscaper

Resident warns neighbours to be careful of door-to-door salesmen

Most Read