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Banning debate revived at Township Council

Jacob de Raadt may be gone, but he is not forgotten.

Six weeks after the Langley City resident was banned from attending Langley Township council meetings, the matter resurfaced at the Jan. 14 council meeting with one councillor, Kim Richter, arguing for a formal process that allows banned people to appeal the decision.

Richter said at a minimum, people should be put on notice before they are actually banned.

“We don’t have a due process,” Richter said.

“We really need to put the rules of the game up front so people know what the consequences are.”

In June, de Raadt was involved in a brouhaha between members of council and the audience during a discussion about the sale of Township-owned land in Glen Valley.

De Raadt was forbidden from attending future meeting without the “prior written permission of mayor and Council” and told all future communication with the Township must be directed through Vancouver law firm Bull Housser and Tupper.

He was also warned in writing to “cease publishing or delivering any defamatory or racist communications in respect of the Township, current or past staff or elected officials.”

A letter from Bull Housser lawyer James H. Goulden said de Raadt made a number of “inappropriate” remarks in communications to the Township, including a reference to a unnamed person’s Irish surname.

“These communications are likely racist and defamatory and should not, in our view, be tolerated by the Township,” Goulden wrote.

The comments were made in relation to the  Athenry Development project to build condos and a cultural centre in Willoughby, the lawyer said.

When a majority of council voted to ban de Raadt, they also voted to have Bull Housser and Tupper send a letter to nine other people who oppose the Athenry Development project, advising them to direct all future correspondence to the Township’s law firm.

Richter thought that was excessive.

“There has never been a council in the history of this Township that has banned 10 people,” Richter said.

“If you look cross-eyed at us, you can’t be in council chambers any more. It’s ridiculous.”

Richter was backed by Councillor David Davis.

“This is a public building and taxpayers have a right to express themselves,” Davis said.

“This job comes with criticism. You have to have a tough skin to sit here.”

Davis and Richter called for a policy that would require a written warning before a ban, with time allowed for the alleged offender to apologize, and an opportunity to speak to council behind closed doors.

The policy would allow a banned person to appeal to an “independent third party” whose decision would be final.

Mayor Jack Froese said that would be too restrictive.

“I don’t feel a policy is necessary,” Froese said.

“That’s going to handcuff us and restrict us.”

The mayor added the other nine people were told to go through their lawyers because they had sued the Township and even though they had abandoned the lawsuit, there was still the possibility it could be revived

Councillor Grant Ward said citizens expect “proper decorum” in council “which excludes racist remarks.”

Councillor Charlie Fox said much the same, arguing “reasonable discretion has to be used” by people dealing with council.

So did Councillor Bev Dornan, who commented “as adults we are responsible for our actions.”

The proposal to adopt the Richter-Davis policy was voted down.

Council eventually went with a compromise proposal from Councillor Steve Ferguson, that will have staff look into the cost of researching such a policy, including the cost of finding out how other municipalities handle bans.

That was passed with the mayor and Councillors Dornan and Ward opposed.

Councillor Bob Long was not present.

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