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City of Powell River potential renaming questioned

Resident asks councillors to check whether such an action would violate rights
REQUESTS MOTION: Robin Tremblay appeared before City of Powell River council regarding a possible name change of the city, and had a conversation with the mayor and councillors about whether such an action might breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other legislation.

A Powell River resident believes the potential renaming of the city potentially violates certain Canadian treaties and legislation.

At a city council meeting, Robin Tremblay appeared as a delegation regarding acts, rights, charters and treaties.

Tremblay said he was requesting a motion by the city. He asked any member of council to make the lengthy motion he read to council, which concluded: therefore, be it resolved that Canadian Charter of Rights equality rights for the residents of the City of Powell River be respected and will be upheld in the name change process.

In a letter to the city dated March 13, Tremblay stated he had the expectation that the city cease and desist any renaming attempts, including any surveys, and that the city consults to ensure no violations of rights, charters, acts or treaties are occurring.

Tremblay told councillors he had contacted North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney’s office to see if his rights were being protected. He sent the same letter to Blaney that was sent to the city; it was also sent to the House of Commons, and eventually, to the Library of Parliament. Tremblay said the short version of the question is he wants to know if his rights and freedoms are protected.

“There was no actual reply to the basis of my question,” he added. “Renaming a community is not a yes or no answer.

“My question has never been put forward, does not have any direct case law, and Ottawa cannot answer it because it does not know. If Ottawa does not know if my rights are being violated, the City of Powell River does not know, and it should know before it proceeds.”

Tremblay submitted to the city and to council his request to affirm that no rights are being violated.

Mayor Dave Formosa said he believed Tremblay was asking two things. One is whether the city is violating the charter of rights in asking its residents their position regarding a possible name change. Formosa said he also believed Tremblay was asking council to make a motion to send a letter to the charter of rights administrators in Ottawa asking if the city, in the dialogue with the community about a possible name change, is breaching the charter of rights.

Tremblay said the city, at the moment, has not violated any rights because it hasn’t requested renaming from the provincial government.

Formosa said, then, the question is if the city was to change the name, are the charter of rights being breached?

Tremblay said that was correct.

Councillor George Doubt said Tremblay has asked a difficult question.

“You’re asking city council to say they’ve made a decision that something they might do, may or may not violate the rights under a whole list of agreements,” said Doubt. “Usually, the violation of rights start at the point where somebody believes their rights have been violated. They appeal to the people who make the decisions and a decision is made on the facts of the case after something has happened.”

Doubt said the Canadian Human Rights Commission has a process where people can type in information online and get an answer from the people who know the answer.

“I don’t think the procedures the city is going through, which may, ultimately end in renaming the city, violates anybody’s rights,” said Doubt.

Tremblay said should the city move forward knowing that it could potentially violate rights, and does so, the city becomes a target of the charter of rights.

“It is the city’s responsibility to follow the constitution,” said Tremblay. “If you do not know if you are going to violate a right, it is the city’s responsibility to find that answer out before it moves forward. It’s not my responsibility after you have done the process.”

Tremblay asked why it should be for the courts to decide.

“Why don’t we do this prior to getting into legal trouble?” asked Tremblay. “All I’m asking is for city council to respect the constitution and ensure no rights are being violated. How you are going to do that is your ball game.”

Corporate officer Chris Jackson said council could receive the delegation and the city could follow up.

Formosa said constitutional lawyers exist and a simple question regarding a potential name change possibly breaching the charter of rights of the people who did not want a name change could be asked. Formosa said he might be able to make a call for Tremblay’s sake.

“I believe the Province of British Columbia would have informed us if we were walking into a trap,” said Formosa. “At the end of the day, they are the ones who are going to approve a potential name change, not us, so they will get all the legal liability, in my view.”