A gathering at Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau’s office on Jan. 8 led to a complaint to the City of Duncan about blocked entrances on Station Street. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Role of Duncan commissionaire questioned after photos taken at protest

City of Duncan employee took pictures of people gathered at MLA’s office

Eden Haythornthwaite has taken exception to the role of the City of Duncan’s commissionaires.

Haythornthwaite, a former chairwoman of the Cowichan Valley school district, was part of a gathering of approximately 50 people that took place in front of the office of Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau on Station Street in Duncan on Jan. 8.

The gathering was one of many held across B.C. on that day in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en pipeline blockades in northern B.C. after arrests were made to enforce an injunction issued in December that would allow the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink access to the area as part of its pipeline project.

RELATED STORY: RCMP START TO CLEAR INDIGENOUS PIPELINE PROTEST CAMPS IN NORTHERN B.C.

Haythornthwaite said the gathering, which assembled at Furstenau’s office to meet with her to voice their concerns, was “respectful, quiet and thoughtful”.

She said a commissionaire from the City of Duncan arrived and, after asking that the people move away from the front of the office, proceeded to take pictures of those assembled.

“Whether you agree with the objections held by those who stood downtown that day, it should be a matter of disquiet that a parking officer took it upon himself on behalf of his employer, the City of Duncan, to record the faces of the people who turned out to engage with their elected representative,” Haythornthwaite said.

“I think that Duncan’s city council should either rein in their employee or establish openly that his mandate includes riding over our freedom to participate, however slightly, in the manner in which we are governed. That way we all know where we stand.”

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Haythornthwaite asked if the group was violating any bylaws and what the city intends to do with the pictures that were taken by the commissionaire.

Peter de Verteuil, the City of Duncan’s CAO, said the city received a complaint that the protesters were blocking access to an office next door, probably unknowingly.

“Our commissionaire attended, identified himself, and politely asked them to move over a bit to allow entry into the neighbouring office,” he said.

“The group complied, and there were no further issues. The commissionaire did take photographs as a matter of common practice with most complaints they attend to. The photographs are not shared, and simply filed in the city’s records with the complaint.”

Furstenau said she met with the people gathered in front of her office, and they were peaceful and respectful.

She acknowledged that they moved out of the way of other businesses after the commissionaire asked them to.

“These people wanted to be engaged with the pipeline issue in a positive way, and they were happy to comply with the requests of the commissionaire,” Furstenau said.

“I really appreciated the friendly nature of the commissionaire. I always encourage people to come to my office, but I remind everyone to respect the other businesses and entrances on the street.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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