Mayor's statement addressing online threat and bullying

May 15, 2019

I’d like to speak frankly about an incident yesterday and the larger issue of bullying and harassment. I want to make a few remarks around what I consider objectionable and inappropriate behavior.

As you may know, the RCMP are investigating allegations of online threats directed at myself. Police have identified and arrested a suspect and it is now before the courts. The actions of the RCMP clearly illustrate the seriousness of this issue. 

As elected officials, it truly is an honour to lead our community.  We are tasked with making numerous decisions, both large and small, that we hope will positively benefit our community not only now, but for years to come. But we as elected representatives know that decisions we make face public scrutiny and regardless of the outcome, not everyone will be satisfied.

Criticism of our decisions and debating issues facing our community is nothing new and it often helps lead to better outcomes.  But online comments made by one of our residents yesterday, encouraging violence, is where I draw the line. By ignoring the comment and not saying anything, to me, would just be condoning this type of behavior.

I have to stand up for my Council colleagues and the elected representatives at all levels to say that this incident is not acceptable under any circumstance. It’s unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to my family and I am sure it’s unacceptable to the majority of society. But this isn’t just about me.

Democracy is sometimes messy, and controversial issues sometimes generate strong feelings. But that’s what makes our community strong – exercising an open mind, humility and mutual respect and especially with those with whom we disagree.

The bigger issue here is about civility and a collective commitment to civil discourse. More than ever, it’s vital to challenge those who use personal attacks, online bullying, or vulgar language to stifle opposing points of view.

This is not the behaviour that encourages the diverse and inclusive community we are all working so hard to build.Simply put, it is sad that I have to stand here and make a plea for civility and talk about why bullying and harassment is intolerable.

As upsetting as this has been, I believe this is an opportunity for our community to grow.  It’s a reminder that we can disagree with one another, but we can do so respectfully.  We all see the world a little differently and that’s a good thing.

Kelowna should be a place where we can share our views without fear of bullying and harassment. That is the Kelowna my Council colleagues and I will continue to build together.

Mayor Colin Basran