The Township of West Lincoln municipal building.Metroland file photo

Original Published on Aug 03, 2022 at 09:10

By Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WARNING: This story contains language that some readers may find offensive.

West Lincoln councillors were recently left lamenting the state of public discourse after receiving an expletive-laden message shortly after voting to accept the integrity commissioner’s report into Coun. Harold Jonker’s role in the “Freedom Convoy” earlier this year.

On July 27, West Lincoln Coun. William Reilly received a message from a “concerned citizen” that took him completely by surprise.

“It is not only disgusting, but egregious and shameful your actions (sic) towards Harold Jonker,” it read.

“There aren’t enough pejoratives for scumbag Canadians like yourselves.

“Do this country a favour and f—ing kill yourselves. You are useless eaters and a total waste of oxygen.

“May you all f— off and die.”

The email was forwarded to the Niagara Regional Police by township staff, and Reilly made the decision to share it on social media, to make the public aware of the type of abuse councillors sometimes face. 

The email came just over a week after council voted to accept the integrity commissioner’s findings that Coun. Harold Jonker broke the code of conduct during his role in the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa earlier this year.

Reilly wasn’t the only councillor who received the message.

Councillors Cheryl Ganann and Jason Trombetta also confirmed that they received it. 

“I found it to be very offensive, indeed, and extremely disappointing that someone would stoop to such a low level,” said Ganann.

Coun. Shelley Bradaric said she also received emails after the integrity commissioner’s report, but they were not as abusive.

Councillors did not bring the complaint forward and did not investigate Jonker; they just voted to accept the finding of the report and the recommendations for remedial actions.

The investigation was carried out by law firm Aird & Berlis, which acted as the integrity commissioner.

John Mascarin, partner at the law firm and one of the co-authors of the report, said that he had not received any abusive emails in the wake of Jonker’s investigation, but has had very disrespectful comments in the past.

“I am accustomed to receiving negative comments,” he admitted. “I almost expect it.”

He said authors of integrity commissioner reports are often attacked. They may be called puppets if they find that someone breached the code, or are criticized for not going far enough if they don’t find a breach.

For councillors, they feel the email is indicative of a larger trend, and they want to lower the temperature of public debate.

Reilly admits this is not the first time he’s received scathing messages, but this is the worst one yet.

And it crossed a line.

“We can disagree. We disagree all the time … But at no point is it appropriate to wish death upon someone,” he said.

Since the pandemic, Reilly observed an increase in the number of “keyboard warriors” who send critical messages.

“Is that the way we want our society to be?” asked Reilly. “It’s very un-Canadian.”

“It’s just not West Lincoln,” said Trombetta. “I grew up here for 40 years and West Lincoln was never like this.

“I want West Lincoln back.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Grimsby Lincoln News, Grimsby, Ontario