Public officials shouldn’t be kicked out of office for civil disobedience: UBCM

Municipal leaders vote on resolution setting guidelines for councils dealing with politicians who run afoul of law

Conviction for acts of civil disobedience should not bar a public official from remaining in public office, according to a resolution narrowly approved by the Union of B.C. Municipalities Sept. 13.

The decision came as an amendment on an approved resolution that local council members be put on unpaid leave from office on conviction of a criminal conviction.

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That leave would continue until the end of the period allowed for appeal of such a conviction or the end of the appeal process.

B.C. has seen several local elected officials charged with criminal offences in recent years

Former Pitt Meadows city councilor David Murray was sentenced to nine months imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl almost two decades ago.

He was convicted Oct. 25, 2017, and resigned amid public pressure four days later.

“No other community should have to deal with that,” Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker told UBCM delegates. “It can’t just be business as usual. We need to maintain public trust.”

Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr suggested the civil disobedience change.

“They are acts of a good social conscience.” Carr said. “I would not want to see those officials barred from public office.

Civil disobedience often results in contempt of court charges against protesters who disregard court orders.

The charge is a criminal one – and one that protesters against the Trans Mountain pipeline have faced after the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued an injunction on demonstrations at the Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby work site.

Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart, who is a former Burnaby member of Parliament, pleaded guilty to contempt in May.

Federal Green Party leader Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also pleaded guilty to criminal contempt in May for her role in a Trans Mountain pipeline protest.

Smithers Coun. Frank Wray disagreed on removing civil disobedience as a disqualifier for elected officials.

“As lawmakers, we set a poor example when we choose which laws we should support and which we should not support,” Wray said.

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, a lawyer, told UBCM delegates criminal contempt law is hazy.

“There’s a lot of problems,” he said. “The judge is in the role of prosecutor, judge and jury.”

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