At long last, the terms of the settlement reached in the lawsuit against Mayor Brad Woodside, the City of Fredericton, and Murray Jamer can be released. The key part of the settlement is a public statement which sets the record straight about what the Defendants did in December 2011 and January 2012.
The settlement was finalized in mid-November 2013. Some have asked why the exact terms of the settlement were kept confidential until today, January 6. The reason relates to the two-year limitation of action period in New Brunswick. Essentially, if someone does something, and another person wishes to sue them for it, they must file suit within two years of the incident in question. In this case, that two-year period elapsed for the Defendants on January 3, 2014, because they destroyed our protest shelter on January 3, 2012. The Defendants’ lawyers were concerned that their clients might get sued again by others based on the revelations in the public statement were it to be released before two years had elapsed, because the public statement contains strong and unambiguous admissions of wrongdoing. Here is the full public statement:
On October 15, 2011, ‘Occupy Fredericton’ began a political protest in Phoenix Square, outside Fredericton City Hall. As part of this political protest ‘Occupy Fredericton’ erected a structure in Phoenix Square. On December 31, 2011, the City of Fredericton provided written notice to members of ‘Occupy Fredericton’ that they had three days’ notice to remove any and all structures that were located in Phoenix Square pursuant to section 5 of By-law No. T-4, A By-law Respecting Streets and Sidewalks. On January 3, 2012 members of the City of Fredericton Public Works Department removed this structure.
The City of Fredericton acknowledges that the right of members of ‘Occupy Fredericton’ to protest is protected by section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The City of Fredericton has reviewed this matter as a result of litigation with three members of ‘Occupy Fredericton’ (Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, and Alex Davenport) and has concluded that the City’s by-laws in place as of January 3, 2012 did not provide the City of Fredericton with authority to remove the Occupy Fredericton structure without further order of the Court. The City of Fredericton issues this statement to publicly apologize to Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, Alex Davenport, and other members of Occupy Fredericton for removing this structure without appropriate authority. Further, the City has provided compensation to Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, and Alex Davenport to compensate them for the loss of personal belongings during the removal of the structure and other damages they suffered as a result of removing this structure and in settlement of their action against Mayor Brad Woodside, the City of Fredericton, and Murray Jamer.
People often ask: What do I hope that this victory will accomplish? More than anything, I hope that this stimulates a broader discussion about what normal, everyday people can and should do to improve the state of our democracy. If we want to live in a fair and just society that is based on the rule of law, we have to work for it. A healthy democracy doesn’t just require citizens to scribble a mark on a ballot every four years and then hope that politicians will take over from there and make everything right. It requires them to be informed, engaged, and willing to confront injustice when they encounter it.
That is easier said than done, of course. A common sentiment today sounds something like: “Sure, there are problems in our society, but what can I do about them?” This sentiment is understandable. As Canadian author John Ralston Saul has pointed out, citizens are made to feel powerless, and their democratic participation is discouraged, by the influence of corporatism—an ideology which insists that society ought to be run by special interest groups, rather than individual citizens who act for the common good. As it happens, the corrosive influence of corporatism is the primary concern of the Occupy movement.
Despite the difficulties that may arise, there is always hope. Perhaps this victory will act as an example to others that regular people can serve the common good and see justice done if they’re willing to fight long and hard enough. To foster discussion about this issue, we will be hosting a conference on January 25, 2014, from 1-4 p.m. at the O’Dell Park Lodge. Our focus will be on finding effective ways for citizens to be involved and make a difference in our society. There is no charge, and everyone is invited. Please call Dana at 461-5898 if you plan to attend so that we may gauge attendance.
I also hope that this will send a message to those in government. Some politicians abuse their power far too readily, secure in the belief that citizens won’t stand up and hold them accountable. Perhaps this will rattle the political cage and help to keep public officials in line.
I will conclude on a personal note. I would like to thank everyone who has stood by me and supported this endeavour over the last two years. It has been a long, hard road—if we may call it a road, rough and fraught with obstacles as it was—but the journey has been worth it. I look forward to seeing where the next odyssey will lead.