The Canadian Constitution Foundation is assisting a municipal councillor in Prince Edward Island facing unconstitutional sanctions and possible removal from council simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression. John Robertson is a retiree who volunteered for a position on the municipal council of Murray Harbour, P.E.I. (pop. 282) in 2022 because he wanted to give back to his rural community.

Robertson felt dismayed about what he views as lies perpetuated in the mainstream media related to the discovery of unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools, which have been labelled “mass graves” by some journalists despite scant evidence for that particular claim. To try to set the record straight, last September Robertson changed the plastic letters on a wooden sign on his private property in Murray Harbour to spell out a provocative message: “TRUTH: MASS GRAVE HOAX. RECONCILIATION: REDEEM SIR JOHN A’S INTEGRITY.”

On October 4, 2023 Robertson was informed of an official complaint by three fellow councillors under the village Code of Conduct. Council then hired a former RCMP officer to investigate the sign. The officer found that Robertson’s sign breached Code provisions against “unethical behaviour,” “inspiring public trust and confidence,” and “discrimination, intimidation, and harassment.

Mr. Robertson expressed an opinion on a matter of public interest on his private property. There’s no doubt his comments were controversial, and possibly even hurtful to some people, but we wouldn’t need constitutional protection for expression if everyone agreed all the time. As said by CCF Counsel Josh Dehaas “…if members of the public disagree with Robertson’s comments, the proper place to express that disagreement is at the ballot box.”

Members of the public are also encouraged to sign and share the CCF’s petition demanding that Murray Harbour Council drop the sanctions and that Minister Lantz end his inquiry at theccf.ca/drop-the-sanctions/

Prince Edward Island free expression case (John Robertson)


CCF Launch: February 21, 2024
Jurisdiction: PEI
Status: Ongoing
Next Key Date: TBD

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