Protocol proposed for dealing with abusive behaviour by public delegations

To Committee of the Whole, Apr 3, 1pm

The city manager is proposing amending the Procedure Bylaw to include a general protocol for dealing with members of the public who engage in harassing or abusive behaviour when they appear as delegations at committee or council meetings.

Over the course of the last year or so, staff has observed increasing incidents of incivility at Standing Committee meetings and meetings of City Council whereby certain members of the public use the delegation platform to make disparaging remarks either about other identifiable groups/minorities in society or, at times, city staff.
Proposed amendments to the Procedure By-law will give staff a mechanism to intervene and prevent someone from delegating at a standing committee in those situations where persons “are known to or likely to engage in unreasonable or offensive conduct” or speak on matters outside the city’s jurisdiction. A similar protocol exists at Halton Region.

“Unreasonable or offensive conduct” is defined as “conduct or statements by a member of the public that can be considered to be aggressive, abusive, threatening, intimidating, violent, harassing, defamatory, frivolous or vexatious.”

Should an individual be denied the right to delegate, they will be informed of the reason why. The chair and vice-chair of the relevant standing committee will also be notified.
The report will be on the agenda for the April 3 Committee of the Whole at City Hall, 1pm, Council Chambers. Recommendations from COW will go to City Council April 18 for a final decision. Register as a delegation to speak to committee about this item.
Read the report:

CM-06-17 – procedure bylaw amendment re public delegations

Read the full agenda for COW:

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

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:


Leave a Reply
    • Joan, that is a great question. It seems that a Council Code of Conduct is not something Mr. Ridge feels is necessary. Or perhaps he realizes that not all Council members would sign off on this. Its those pesky resident delegates that have to be dealt with.

  1. I find it interesting that the City Manager plans on introducing protocol for the general public when delegating before Council. Before he chastises the delegations he needs to look not only at the way the public is treated when they delegate, but also the poor behaviour of some councillors toward their fellow councillors. A very one sided approach in my view.

  2. Same rules should apply to Councillors! Isn’t what you s being proposed a little overkill ? Along the same lines as limiting delegations to 5 minutes. Why the attack on input????

  3. I am not sure why people still delegate at council. Being told that you ‘Can’t’ delegate may add a tiny bit more drama. Local Municipal Politics seems is a bit like the WWE. The action is real but I believe the outcome is all predetermined.

  4. Is the City Manager going to put protocol in place to ensure that those delegating will be treated with respect as well? While the City Manager is doing this perhaps Councillors will be asked to treat their fellow Councillors with the same respect. Interesting that the City Manager only can see one side of the situation.

  5. I will add that I have delegated twice in 17 years and I was nervous but it was important to me and others in the arts community. I’m use to speaking in public but it was different to speak to council. I found the staff and councillors positive to interact with .

  6. there are times when city staff engage to members of the public in a rude and condescending manner as well.
    talking down to people that try to engage in the civil process is also a form a harassment.

  7. Yes, that sounds like the sort of thing to expect from City Manager James Ridge. He did his bit of damage in District of North Vancouver, BC, as CAO, before he left for “greener pastures” in Burlington… This is the kind of tactic used by our local governments to quell democratic public comment, over time…. Take care.

  8. Some of the described behaviour is a bit too vague for me. Some clarification may be needed (I’m a bit semantical though…still). What one person finds” frivolous” another may find relevant. Similarly but less vague is “intimidating”. That seems to fall in the lap of the person who feels intimidated.

What's your take?

City Ombuds receives 8 complaints, one under investigation

Backlog of infrastructure renewal needs drops $7 million