Public Consultation

When speaking with citizens of Almonte, one theme was stressed to me over and over: public consultation.

The citizens’ choice

When was the last time your councillor sent you an email or phoned to say “Hey, I’ll be at (old town hall/local restaurant/library/Legion/other) on Saturday morning if you have concerns about that proposed (Official Plan/park sale/OVRT/zoning change)?” Or, “send me an email about (snow-clearing/traffic speed/crosswalk/water overcharge)”?

There may have been troubles with the bandwidth at the Municipal office a year ago when the cabling went in, but what has been holding your councillor back lately?

Informal consultation can be frequent; formal communication needs to be regular.

The problem I heard with public consultation was not just that it was infrequent and amounted to lip service; it was that few on Council listened. At the August 9, 2016 meeting where staff and Council proposed selling Don Maynard Park, only one Councillor waded into the crowd outside and spoke to people, and that was Councillor Paul Watters, who represented Ramsay. The Almonte councillors didn’t: apparently, they knew better than more than thirteen hundred of their own citizens.

You can expect me to ask you for your advice and your preferences in a number of ways. Let me know what kind of contact you prefer.

The Work of Reconciliation

Relationships can be thorny. Photo: Jan Maydan, Almonte Fair, Lanark Agricultural Building

“We are so divided!”

“We can never heal from this.”

“Why do they say they will listen but they don’t?”

“It was a hard decision to hurt you, but…”

 

“This hurts me as much as it hurts you.”

“Why don’t you believe me? You’re not perfect!”

“It’s for the greater good. Trust me.”

From 1997 to 2010, I worked on the Indian Residential School abuse cases; I was selected mainly because I had experience working with victims of sexual assaults and on reserves.  Criminal trials finding several perpetrators guilty had started most of the claims. It turned out that thousands of children had been abused in residential schools nationally. The first ones were opened by the Jesuits in the 1700s, and the last one closed in 1996.

As one of the first program managers, I had few  mentors or manuals to guide me as I represented the federal government in mediation, court and negotiation with churches. I ended up modeling the role for new staff and lawyers, trying to explain the need to maintain a relationship to people who argued for a living. The indigenous, church and government parties to the eventual Settlement Agreement ended up changing the limitations laws in most provinces and how bureaucracies treat people.

How do you reconcile?  Is an apology good enough? What needs to be done? Does this mean you have to “turn the other cheek”? Suffer insults and abuse gladly or silently?  Do you have to forgive? No.

For victims, speaking out is the first and hardest step. A victim might only accept and understand what happened and know they were not at fault. Because some offenders are unrepentant, real forgiveness is elusive or impossible. For those offenders who want to continue a relationship, a challenging self-examination is vital.

I am sharing a speech that I prepared in 2009. The principles have a very broad application: to nations, groups, families, couples and individuals.  I hope you find it useful.

Overview of Reconciliation