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In Defence of Canadians Rights & Democracy

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!! A Mississauga Democratic Tradition Lost !!

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Opening comments:  More at the end.

They put my head on the body of a fly - made a monster of me, like 50's horror film!
Eye Weekly is part of the TorStar group, so the Toronto star photographer came by to take pictures of me and the Monarch butterflies I was raising but being too early in the year for the butterflies, for any to have made it to being butterflies, just had a caterpillar.  It can be seen on my hat.
Just to explain this picture and what can happen when the media comes a calling for your picture.

To the Public Question Period Index page.

Comments by others to this web-page 5.

eye Weekly - July 22, 2009 - By Chris Bilton

In praise of the gadfly
Mississauga swats away an annoying activist, but he’s a symbol of local democracy in action

Municipal Affairs Desk
When Don Barber shows up to council meetings, politicians are, like, shoo!

If you’ve never been to a public consultation or a City Hall committee meeting, or even to a town hall–style debate, you might never have had the experience of witnessing a gadfly in action.  At these kinds of public forums, there will invariably be one, if not a handful of folks, intent on discussing in intricate detail an issue that they’ve determined to be super-important no matter how little it has to do with the meeting at hand, or how much of everyone’s time they’re about to waste, or even how far from making a useful point they may stray.  For an audience member, this kind of disruption is interminably frustrating.  And for an elected official trying to save face, it must be sheer torture.

But there is no special constitutional clause ensuring the right to have public meetings run smoothly.  And there is no asterisk beside the phrase “public consultation” that indicates that the “public” must be articulate and savvy — or even 100 per cent lucid.  Sometimes it’s the gadflies, the obsessives and the borderline nutty who are able to shed light on important yet overlooked issues.

Which is why the news out of Mississauga City Hall that they are ending their tradition of public-question period, largely because of the persistence of one individual, is so troubling.  It seems a petty action for any municipal government to undertake.  The mayor’s office assures me that they’ve simply diverted public comment to the committee level, where discussion is limited to what’s on the agenda.  But Hazel McCallion’s remarks to environmental activist and four-time mayoral candidate Don Barber that he is “ruining the opportunity for people to come before council because you misuse the freedom” tells a far more personal story.

Sure, a scheduled 10-minute opportunity for anyone to come before council and ask a question about anything is something of a rarity — in Toronto, people can do so only during committee meetings.  Barber even admits that, in his experience, only a few people used the forum on a regular basis.  But as a long-standing tradition of our neighbour to the west, it is — or was — a fine example of the inclusiveness of city politics.

According to Barber, he began to use question period as a forum when all other avenues were closed.  Since his efforts in the mid-1990s to save the Cawthra Bush, he says his attempts to deal directly with staff and councillors have been to no avail.  “If it wasn’t for that, we would never have been motivated to ask these things in public,” he says.

Asking things in public, however, has proven a troublesome endeavour for Barber.  He’s been regularly denounced by the mayor and councillors, and even arrested in council chambers — though he still managed the best-ever showing against McCallion when he ran against her in 2006 with charges still pending. (They were eventually dropped.)

Nobody ever said that criticizing government from the outside is easy, mind you.  In New York City, independent newspaper gadfly Rafael Martinez Alequin was stripped of his press credentials in 2007 for belligerent questions concerning race and class, and last year the mayor of Clarington filed a gag order against activist Jim Richards.  Earlier this year the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire tried, but eventually decided against, issuing fines for people who broke the rules during that city’s question period.

But censoring even the most obnoxious commentators — either through subtle procedural changes or overt gag orders — looks worse on a city council than it does on the people they’re trying to ignore.  When only 32 per cent of people in the GTA even bother to vote during municipal elections, is it really wise to alienate the few who are interested?

Email us at: LETTERS@EYEWEEKLY.COM or send your questions to EYEWEEKLY.COM
625 Church St, 6th Floor, Toronto M4Y 2G1

Comments by others, 5, to this web-page;

GTA Sep 9, 2009 12:59 PM

Don's a great Guy

Too Bad he's up against the Hazel Joan of Arc Syndrome

Watcher Jul 24, 2009 11:57 AM

Trying the facts for a change.

Don Barber here.  For years Canadians have been treated like mushrooms by the media.  If what was happening to those who trying to save the forests and wildlife of Mississauga was being reported I wouldn’t have been arrested and I was not arrested in Council.  This article talks out of both sides of its face, wasting words on the government official story that those who question are in the wrong.  More than one person is questioning Hurricane Hazel and her minions.  The inquires are fully researched using the Freedom of Information Act, which is why they fear us.  Documents show a secret trail, a secret City security program and the Mayor saying a COUP out to get her.  Playing by the rules can be harmful to your health.  If you want to know more you can check out Mississauga watch or Muse and mine or more political at

* Agree 1

birdiequeen Jul 23, 2009 2:54 PM

When you ask "what can one person do?"

Most of us, when asked the rhetorical question "What can just one person do?", shrug our shoulders and say "Nothing". Don Barber, on the other hand, took action on an issue in which he passionately believed, and was "swatted back". No wonder most of us sit down and shut up when Government actions run contrary to our (passionate) beliefs.

* Agree 3

Alan Forde Jul 23, 2009 1:55 PM

I'd love a 32% voter turnout

That would be about 40% more people demonstrating they care by casting a ballot, Mississauga's '06 voter participation was 23%. Shameful. This spring Pointe-Claire (Quebec) in addition to fines for addressing the mayor incorrectly, tried to restrict public attendance to 90 - wow, how can we get more than a handful of regular observers? If middle aged caucasians feel intimidated by the City Hall process, what does that say for anyone else's sense of inclusion? Oh wait...23% eligible votes cast may answer that.

* Agree 2

gullyfourmyle Jul 23, 2009 12:53 PM

Mississauga needs to be swatted back in a big way.

Don Barber is performing a service that most people don't have the mental equipment to fathom including Hazel. The Cawthra bush is a vital piece of natural habitat that not only should be left as is, it should be expanded and protected rigorously. Both the reporter and the editor of this piece need a fast education in local eco-affairs before they make any more stupid, inaccurate comments.

* Agree 2

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