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P.E.I. councillor demands court review after being reprimanded for putting up a sign questioning Indigenous unmarked graves

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A town councillor on Prince Edward Island is requesting that the court overturn the sanctions that were placed on him because he posted a sign on his land that raised doubts about the existence of unmarked remains at old residential schools.

Murray Harbour Councilman John Robertson asserts in documents submitted to the P.E.I. Supreme Court this week that on November 18, 2023, when they determined he had broken the council’s code of conduct, other council members went beyond their jurisdiction and infringed his rights.

The councilors then voted to suspend him from his municipal position for six months and impose a $500 fine. In addition to being forced to resign as head of the maintenance committee and writing an apologetic letter to the mayor, council, and Indigenous community, Robertson was elected in November 2022.

In his February 16 movement for judicial review, the councillor claims that the punishments were irrational as they did not take into consideration his Charter-guaranteed fundamental rights to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression.

Robertson argues that he shouldn’t face consequences for expressing personal views unrelated to his position as a council member who was elected.

The council member put up a sign on his property that said, “Reconciliation: Redeem Sir John A.’s integrity” and “Truth: mass grave hoax,” on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in late September and early October of last year.

The first prime minister of Canada, Macdonald, is credited with creating the residential school system because he supported assimilationist policies and acts of brutality against Indigenous people.

The application states that the council at one time employed a third-party investigator who found that Robertson’s signage violated the code of conduct, but the investigator made no suggestions about possible punishment. The paper further claims that the council did not give justification for its decisions.

Rob Lantz, the provincial minister of communities, stated on December 20 that Robertson would have until the end of the month to abide with the penalties. However, when the deadline passed, Lantz said on January 2 that Robertson had recently returned to Canada and was not aware of the deadline, and he granted a two-week extension.

And that deadline arrived and passed. On January 24, Lantz said that he had contacted a law company to look into the situation. This was mostly because government lawyers had advised him to do so because the province had never handled a case like this before.

Lantz said at the time that the council member had not attended council sessions or replied to the council’s conclusions. In an interview conducted last month, Lantz stated, “He’s shown contempt for his colleagues on council, and contempt for the process.”

The Municipal Government Act of the province grants the minister the only authority to remove a council member.

The mayor of Murray Harbour, various councilors, Sen. Brian Francis of P.E.I., and Chief Roderick Gould Jr. of the Abegweit First Nation have all called for Robertson’s resignation.

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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