MEDICAL MARIJUANA USER FUMING OVER 'FRANK E-MAIL' EXCHANGE WITH COUNCILLOR
City councillor Gord Hunter says he has no regrets about telling a medical marijuana user who feels his human rights were abused to "grow up."
Nor does the plain-spoken Knoxville-Merivale councillor think that Diane Deans had any reason to apologize for him at a committee meeting Tuesday.
"She doesn't speak for me, and she doesn't speak for council," he said.
Hunter has a reputation for straight, often humorous, talk, but Russell Barth, who suffers from chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, wasn't laughing over an e-mail exchange he had with the veteran Ottawa politician last year.
Barth appeared before councillors, including Deans, on the city's members services committee Tuesday and accused Hunter of a "disgraceful display of intolerance."
Barth urged the panel to use a code of conduct for councillors being developed by staff to prevent such behaviour.
Barth said he was seeking help from Hunter because he felt that his human rights had been violated because on several occasions when using marijuana in public, he has been asked to go somewhere else.
Barth said he complained to his MP and MPP without success, filed an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint and sent an e-mail to Hunter, who represents the ward he lives in, requesting a meeting and help.
Hunter's response was a surprise, Barth said.
"Tough luck on you that ( you ) feel you had your human rights violated," the councillor said.
The e-mail then says:
- - Barth's case seems no different than smokers being asked to move on;
- - others with similar conditions adapt and move on without smoking marijuana; and
- - Barth should smoke in private.
"If it is sympathy you are looking for, you won't find it here. Grow up and get on with your life and quit taking up taxpayers' dollars and time with your frivolity."
At the meeting yesterday, Barth said what Hunter did amounts to discrimination, and suggested the councillors' code prohibit this conduct.
"He shouldn't be allow to dump on people like that, there should be some sort of rule against this," Barth said.
City lawyer Rick O'Connor said the code could contain some general language requiring courtesy, but the real judge would be voters.
Councillors agreed, but before moving on, Deans said, "I think what our colleague said in that e-mail is inappropriate. I'd like to apologize to you an behalf of council."
In an interview later, Hunter, who doesn't sit on the committee, said he stands by his words to Barth in the e-mail.
"I just don't think his human rights were violated by people asking him not to smoke marijuana around them. He sent a frank e-mail, and I sent a frank e-mail."
As for Deans' apology, he said he thinks she was probably trying to defuse an uncomfortable situation, but then he added:
"She doesn't speak for me, and she doesn't speak for council. If ( the Gloucester-Southgate councillor ) wants to do that, she should run for mayor."
Later, Deans acknowledged she shouldn't have apologized on behalf of council, but she said she still thinks Hunter's response to Barth was unbecoming.
"I don't think there's ever an excuse for being rude, and I thought that he was rude," she said.
Copyright: 2009 The Ottawa Citizen