During the council meeting of Jan. 31, while arguing that the public should not have a say in rejigging the edges of the urban containment boundary Councillor Siebring referred to the concerned neighbours of Donnay as a bunch of activists.
Specifically, with reference to an upcoming community meeting about the contentious land around the proposed development, Councillor Siebring said that he was unwilling to defer the decision about the location of the UCB in the vicinity “just so a whole bunch of community activists can get their Sharpies out and tell us what to do.”
Now, an “activist” is a person who campaigns to bring about political change and improvement of social conditions from the grassroots.
But that is not what Councillor Siebring meant when he called us a bunch of activists. By his disdainful tone of voice and by the context of his words, it is clear that Councillor Siebring does not much like community activists. He was using the term as a pejorative and an insult, implying that the residents of the neighbourhood are just rabble-rousers causing problems just for the sake of it. The goal of calling us this name was to minimize and dismiss our valid concerns by minimizing and dismissing us.
Also, on the public record we have been called “special interests,” a term which belittles and casts aspersions upon people who attend public meetings and voice their opinions, suggesting they are just self-interested squeaky wheels who should be ignored for the sake of democracy. Then there is the NIMBY label, hard now to say publicly, but much applied in private conversations, so I hear.
There is a term for name calling for the purpose of silencing. It is an old schoolyard technique called bullying. We are seeing a lot of it in politics these days. Please let us keep it out of our municipal deliberations.
In fact, we are a fairly diverse group of citizens who care deeply about our neighbourhood and our community. We have special knowledge of our area and opinions that matter. Please do not write us off as activists, troublemakers or special interests. I would ask for an end to this name calling and for elected officials and municipal staff to both treat citizens with respect and demand that of others.
I commend Councillor Marsh who later in the Jan. 31 meeting politely and indirectly challenged Councillor Siebring by asking a general question about why concerned citizens were being referred to as activists. I would ask Councillor Siebring’s other colleagues on council to not be complicit in their silence but to directly call out such unfair and disrespectful labeling tactics when they are used.