As our community is well aware, on the morning of January 31, City Councillor Karrie Porter’s home was vandalized by someone who approached her home while she and her family slept and threw a large rock through the front window.
When Regional Councillor Laura Ip learned of this second attack on Councillor Porter’s family home, she immediately launched a fundraiser to assist with paying for the damages; something she has done to support other community members at least twice in the past.
The fundraiser had two goals. First, Councillor Porter and her husband should not have to pay for the damages caused by someone’s cowardly and egregious attack on her family home. Even a home insurance claim could mean bearing some of the cost given considerations for deductibles and increased premiums. Most importantly, the second goal of the fundraiser was to express the community’s support of and solidarity with Councillor Porter and her family; to communicate to those who have engaged in these attacks that she is loved, respected, and supported by the wider community.
The second goal was more than accomplished in raising $2,460 in fewer than two hours. The response was overwhelming, especially for it being so early on a Sunday morning. The community came together and showed Councillor Porter that she does not stand alone against this hate.
Sadly, the first goal cannot be accomplished, as it brings with it the real threat of Integrity Commissioner complaints against Councillors Porter and Ip.
Late in the afternoon on January 31, after the fundraiser had been closed because it so quickly surpassed the financial goal that was set, Councillor Ip received an e-mail from a Thorold resident threatening Integrity Commissioner complaints against herself and Councillor Porter for accepting a “gift.”
After seeking advice from Mr. Maynard (Integrity Commissioner for the Region) and Mr. Mascarin (Integrity Commissioner for the City), the Councillors have been advised that whilst there is no violation by Councillor Ip in initiating and administering the fundraiser; there may be a potential violation for Councillor Porter if she accepts the donations.
Both Councillors have agreed that the risk of the Integrity Commissioner complaints being filed is too great. Even with being advised that there is no violation by Councillor Ip, there remains the chance that a complaint will be filed, and the Councillors are not willing to see taxpayer money spent on the filing, investigation, and reporting of these complaints.
An Integrity Commissioner complaint process can cost in the neighbourhood of $10,000, which means a total of $20,000 for two complaints, or more than eight times the money that was raised to assist Councillor Porter and her family.
The Councillors are grateful for the show of support, which sends a strong message to would-be vandals that these acts of hatred and violence are unacceptable. As Councillor Ip has begun the process of issuing refunds, both Councillors also want to acknowledge and honour community members’ outrage that they are not able to support Councillor Porter in this way. It’s a concern that Councillors have no recourse outside of their personal resources to remedy these situations.
What this outcome tells us is that there needs to be mechanisms put in place to protect community politicians in all aspects of their role, including – sadly – in their personal lives and at their family homes.
To varying degrees and in various ways, both Councillor Porter and Councillor Ip have been subjected to ongoing harassment and abuse for more than three years. It is unacceptable and should be understood as a threat to democracy.