Did a Vancouver city councillor really call another councillor a murderer?

Read an edited and condensed transcript of Wednesday’s raucous council meeting to find out

Did Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer really call NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova a murderer? Did Reimer really say the NPA councillors were culpable in the deaths of overdose victims, if they didn’t support spending more money to combat the opioid crisis?

Below is an edited and condensed transcript from Wednesday’s council meeting of some of the exchange between Reimer and two NPA councillors — George Affleck and Melissa De Genova.

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For context, the ruling Vision council was debating whether to spend $370,000 on mental health support for firefighters and a series of measures to prevent people from dying in single-room-occupancy hotels.

There is a reference to a Ms. Ward. That is Karen Ward of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, who had signed up to speak to council but was unable to make it to the chamber. There's also a reference to nine deaths in Vancouver in December. Those occurred around the same time council debated whether to increase property taxes by another 0.5 per cent to raise money to combat the crisis. The NPA voted against the increase.

Vision Coun. Heather Deal was chairing Wednesday's meeting. In the end, council voted 9-2 to spend the $370,000. Affleck and De Genova voted against the recommendation, citing concerns around more consultation and taking on expenses that should be paid for by the provincial government.

Reimer: I did want to add words of support for the motion to balance off some of the viewpoints expressed earlier by a councillor speaking against it. Nine people did die at the hands of a single person in the city of Vancouver in a single day [in December], and that person was an elected official who chose not to take action. We cannot rely on a majority taking action and a minority sitting on their hands and not because each…

De Genova: Point of order, Madame chair…

Deal: What was your point of order councillor De Genova?

De Genova: I could go back and say it again but it was so offensive. I believe councillor Reimer just called me a murderer.

Deal: You weren’t named, out of order…

De Genova: Oh, OK…

Deal: Councillor Reimer…

Reimer: So every single time an elected official chooses not to take action to prevent these deaths, they are in fact culpable in these deaths. We’re put into government to take action; you may believe that other actions are more important. This is a crisis, please make an amendment, put it on the table, let’s debate it, let’s get acting. If the problem is stopping people from dying — parents as we heard, children, friends — then yes, I do believe that it deserves a government response. I think there is a clear problem and there is a clear solution put in front of us. I believe in taking action in a data driven way. We heard extensive testimony at the last council meeting two weeks ago that half of the people are dying in [single-room-occupancy hotels], and this is a very quick response, in my opinion, from staff to figure out what we can do now. I did want to thank those of you on council who did vote to support hearing from a speaker with lived experience on the frontlines. I know councillor De Genova herself was a bit late today due to medical issues. Ms. Ward had her own…

De Genova: Point of order…

Deal: What is your point of order councillor De Genova?

De Genova: Madame chair you said that you were not going to allow anyone to speak about anyone else’s leave of absence…

Deal: She was quoting something you had previously said. Back to councillor Reimer.

De Genova: Madame chair…

Deal: You stood up and said you had been at the doctor’s…

Reimer: I’m sorry I thought it was a matter of factual record. In any event, for whatever reason, sometimes councillors are not able to make it on time.

Affleck: You know I’m very, very, very concerned about the comments by councillor Reimer. They were not only bullying tactics, they were threatening to me. To say that we are…

Reimer: Point of order…

Deal: Councillor Reimer, you have a point of order…

Reimer: Madame chair, I’ve been accused of engaging in bullying tactics and threatening council. I spoke only to factual issues that were a matter of record in this chamber.

Deal: I support that point of order. Councillor Reimer back to you — sorry, councillor Affleck back to you…

Affleck: Councillor Reimer did say that if we vote against this, we are culpable to peoples’ lives, to their deaths. I find that highly unethical — highly unethical, inappropriate in this chamber. To say those kinds of things to us…our role in this council and in this chamber is to make decisions based on whatever criteria and effect we may have personally or philosophically, or politically. However, we obviously don’t always agree in this chamber — obviously. But to tell me that if I make a decision against this, I am culpable for someone’s death is unbelievably disrespectful to the process and to democracy. I will not stand for it. Unbelievable. That is the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever heard in politics, to be honest councillor Reimer.

Reimer: I did not suggest elected officials are culpable by failing to vote for these recommendations. I said directly that elected officials are culpable by failing to act. If one does not like these actions, please put an amendment on the table and let’s debate it. By failing to act, it does become a political act and one that does directly lead to people’s deaths because you are not proposing any action to prevent them from dying. So, yes, I do stand by those statements.

mhowell@vancourier

@Howellings

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