Banning people who 'misbehave'. What the city is setting out to do - Part 2

By Pepper Parr

July 9th, 2023



On Tuesday the city wants to : Rescind the existing Zero Tolerance Policy.


Approve the Public Conduct Policy substantially in the form set out by the City Clerk in a report to Council.

Then they to:

Approve By-law (to be numbered once it has been passed by Council) substantially in the form attached as Appendix C to office of the city clerk report CL-08-23 and in a form satisfactory to the Executive Director of Legal Services and Corporation Counsel; and

Approve amendments to the 2023 Corporate Customer Experiences – Service Burlington fees as outlined in office of the city clerk report CL-08-23, effective July 11, 2023; and

Approve By-Law   to be numbered once it has been passed by Council)  substantially in the form attached as Appendix D to amend the Rates & Fees By-law 83-2022 to include the appeal fees as detailed in the financial matters section of office of the city clerk report CL-08-23 and in a form satisfactory to the Executive Director of Legal Services and Corporation Counsel; and

Fund any Public Conduct Policy and Trespass By-law investigations through the Contingency Reserve (#111460).

In short Council wants staff to be able to prevent a person from doing and saying things they don’t like to hear and using a complex process that would/could involved being charged under the Trespass Act to allow the city to call police and then charge the person a fee to be able to return to City Hall.

There was no Staff presentation – that meant that no one explained to the public what was being done.  The City would/could ask the police to lay charges under the Trespass Act.  For most cases of trespass, the trespasser will get a provincial offences ticket. They may be fined, but won’t go to jail.  The fine could be as much as $10,000

Would Jim Thomson be cited for misbehaving as he made physical gestures while Nick Leblovic was trying to defend comments he had made about a Conflict of Interest matter ?

Why are they doing this? To

Building more citizen engagement, community health and culture
Deliver customer centric services with a focus on efficiency and technology transformation

The background set out in the Staff report:

Various departments at the City of Burlington are, from time to time, required to manage difficult or inappropriate behaviour exhibited by members of the public. Such behaviour can occur in a variety of settings (in-person, electronically, by phone, etc.) and can be directed towards City staff, other members of the public, or City property (e.g. vandalism and trespassing). When difficult or inappropriate behaviour is observed or reported, staff may be required to impose consequences upon the offending individual.

Consequences can include issuing warnings, restricting access to City property or services, or banning individuals from entering onto City property and notifying the individual that if they do enter onto City property they may be prosecuted under the Trespass to Property Act.

However, at present, the only department at the City with a policy in place that guides its decision-making process and provides members of the public with a right of appeal when consequences are imposed is Recreation, Community and Culture.

The current policy in place within Recreation, Community and Culture is called the Zero Tolerance Policy, which policy was originally implemented in 2003 and was last updated in 2007 (prior to many of the court decisions and ombudsman reports that inform these types of policies across municipalities today). As a department-level policy, the Zero Tolerance Policy applies only to recreational facilities and programs at the City.

Rescinding the Zero Tolerance Policy and implementing a City wide Trespass By-law and Public Conduct Policy would provide the following benefits:

Establish clear expectations for staff and members of the public across all departments, facilities and programs
Clearly delegate authority to make decisions and issue restrictions in response to inappropriate behaviour
Reduce uncertainty and guard against arbitrary action
Allow the City to respond to improper behaviour in an appropriate, proportionate and fair manner
Infuse principles of natural justice into decision-making and appeal processes
Reduce/mitigate risk (risk of infringing a person’s rights, risk of arbitrary action, risk of court challenges)

If a complaint is made against a person  it is first reviewed by the department Director.  The Director’s decision can be appealed to an Executive Director.  There is a fee of $200 to file an appeal.

There were no delegations made when the policy was presented to a Standing Committee.

There was no Staff presentation – the Mayor and Councillor Nisan commented.

The Policy document is 13 pages long – we will publish excerpts from that document in the coming days,

Part 1

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4 comments to Banning people who ‘misbehave’. What the city is setting out to do – Part 2

  • This Public Conduct Plan should make one wary. You can never know where it will lead and what you will get.
    My comment is an almost verbatim email experience I had with Councilor Galbraith and the Mayor, where for completely unstated reasons he found me unacceptable to communicate with. I asked the mayor if this behaviour was acceptable to her and any relevant City Codes of Conduct. The Mayor responded that the Councilor could do this arbitrarily by deeming it necessary with no stated reasons. She said the City City did not have the resources to look into this matter.

    The texts of the emails are self explanatory. I will label each one in order.

    The first is my initial message to Councilor Galbraith.

    1. Hi, I sent the first message about the newsletter, because I did not receive notice from the Councilor about the December 6 Statutory meeting on the Coletara development proposal. These notices are supposed to be in the newsletter, and this should have been a November one and I didn’t get one.
    Please explain.
    Tom Muir
    2. Councilor replies
    You will receive no further communications from my office.

    Hopefully that explains

    3. My query to the Mayor

    The forwarded correspondence is self explanatory.
    My question is – are you going to allow this kind of behaviour and conduct by Councillors under your watch?
    I would not imagine that Councillors have such powers to refuse to represent and communicate Ward 1 matters to constituents. That is their responsibility. My wife has her own needs for her own interests and this refusal includes her.,

    Similarly, I would not imagine that such conduct would be condoned by any City Code of Conduct.
    The Oath of Office Councillors swear to, speaks of conduct that is true, faithful, impartial, unbiased, and otherwise of a proper manner.
    I do not see any of this manner of Councillor conduct in this message from Councillor Galbraith.
    To conduct my affairs I need Councillor communications of Ward 1 matters.
    I repeat my question. Are you, as Mayor, going to allow this kind of conduct?
    Thank you,
    Tom Muir

    4. Reply from the Mayor


    Council members, as well as city staff, can limit their interactions with individuals where deemed necessary.

    The Mayor’s office has neither the authority nor the resources to investigate such situations, or the interactions that led to them. There are established and appropriate avenues for making a complaint, of which you are already aware.

    There are many ways for you to remain connected to news in your Ward, including subscribing to council newsletters and following council members on social media. You can also watch and attend committee and council meetings to see how your elected officials voted and why. You can attend public town halls and meetings. You can request the annual committee/council calendar from clerks (once approved this week for 2023) and check the public agendas which are typically posted about 10 days in advance. Committee dates and agendas are also available online at the City of Burlington calendar below:

    Regarding staying informed on specific development matters, please subscribe to receive alerts for each application you are interested in following. You will receive an email whenever there is updated information. For the specific application mentioned below, please visit this link. The subscribe button is at the top right.

    Regarding public notice of development matters, this is the responsibility of the planning department and clerks. Council members often include these items as a courtesy in their monthly newsletters when that information in known and available prior to publication, however this is not a legislated requirement. Further Statutory Public Meetings are part of formal committee meetings of council. To stay up to date on those, as noted above, please see the annual committee & council calendar and check agendas when published. This provides the most up to date information, especially in between monthly newsletter publication cycles.

    Should you need city services, the most appropriate contact is

    I trust this is helpful.


    I don’t know about you, but being given a to do list to represent myself ,and to deftly justify Councilor Galbraith’s behaviour as okay if he wants to with no justification needed in one sentence shouts beware of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
    The Mayor here looks to me as being okay with that. She easily pardoned Galbraith and convicted me of who knows what, with no evidence needed.

  • Stephen White

    Gone are the days I suppose when, if someone was presumed to have uttered an offensive and defamatory comment, that the offended and offending party would meet to resolve the issue in private. With the advent of social media anything goes, and defamation, slander, libel and threats run amok.

    That said, there is a quantum difference between defamation and offensive behaviour vs. constructive criticism, honest disagreement, and public opposition. The City seems overtly concerned with controlling the narrative and limiting free speech and free expression. This is probably part of the ESG/EDI agenda in which everyone is expected to quote WOKE missives, indulge in equity “happy talk”, and not express disapproval.

    City officials don’t comprehend that cognitive dissonance and honest disagreement are the trademarks of a thriving democracy. If City officials expended as much time and effort on promoting engagement with community groups as they do on silencing honest opposition we might actually have a more politically active populace rather than one where civic involvement is moribund, and the citizens are essentially kept in the dark.

    To quote General Patton “When everyone in the room thinks alike, no one is thinking”.

  • Jim Thomson

    More, likely I get banned for saying “What the hell?”
    Councillor Nissan is apparently easily offended.

    I wonder if my raising the issue of LaSalle Park not being a Community Marina multiple times at Committe/Council would qualify under the “refusing to accept a decision or information provided by staff/repeatedly
    arguing points with no new evidence;”

    I just kept putting up the same picture of the junk and private docks sign at the BS&BC boat launch. Sharman eventually had enough and told staff they should do something.

    • Lynn Crosby

      Wow, so now we will be shut down from saying something we’ve said before? This is a long way from the days when Marianne would encourage 30 delegates to show up and say essentially the same things over and over and would stand up for their right to be heard. Sorry that the public expressing their views as often as they wish at public meetings is such an annoyance to them; maybe they shouldn’t be public officials then?

      This is on the mayor’s website she uses to write her little statements on things and then decides if the comments the public leave can or can’t be published. It’s hard to read this, seeing what is happening now under her leadership. Is there an asterisk excluding the Bateman project, for example?

      “A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch.”

      Yes, my comment is, “that’s rich!”