Conscience and Contracts: Whose Conscience, Whose Contracts?

Ron Bolin: May 6, 2014
On Monday, May 5, in a last minute addition to the agenda of Nanaimo’s Committee of the Whole (Council-COW) meeting, Councillor Pattje put forward a motion which instructed the Management of the VICC (Atlific) not to take, or presumably at this late date to revoke, a booking for the “Beyond You” Leadercast, sponsored by the Nanaimo Daily News and Coastal Communities. This program was a day long live simulcast event presenting motivational speakers such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Laura Bush, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek and others, “For everyone who wants to learn how to lead”. The program was scheduled for this Friday, May 9, and had been advertised in ads running for some time in the Daily News. It may be noted that Coastal Communities, earlier shown as a co-sponsor with the Nanaimo Daily News disappeared from the ad shown in the May 6 paper. The May 7 paper showed the program, which carried a $60 registration fee, as cancelled.

Councillor Pattje’s motion:
It was moved and seconded that the City of Nanaimo advise the VICC that as owners of the facility, any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate (are anathema to the City of Nanaimo? RB) , and as such advise the VICC to not permit the upcoming Leadercast event to occur in a City owned facility that is scheduled for May 9,, 2014.

was based on complaints from Nanaimo’s LGTB community which stemmed from the previous and perhaps continuing background sponsorship of corporations and persons in the US who have been active and vociferous in fighting gay marriage. See:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/chick-fil-a-dan-cathy-gay-marriage_n_4980682.html

 

This issue apparently led to the cancellation of the program last year. This year Councillor Pattje stated that fingerprints from that organization can still be found though not in the advertisement for the event.

Also this year, the inclusion on the speakers roster of a Dr. Henry Cloud, a psychiatrist who apparently believes that homosexuality is not a genuine human trait, but rather a malfunction which to be treated and cured.  It is not difficult to understand why the gay community would be upset with this speaker and his theories though there is no reason to believe that he would be speaking on this subject in his livecast presentation this year.

For a complete understanding of what took place at Monday’s Council (COW) meeting one should view the actions of Council in the video of the meeting at:

https://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/COW140505V

On the menu one can move directly to item 11 at 4:39pm. The motion made by Councillor Pattje passed with only one dissenting vote (Councillor McKay).

Is there a problem with this course of events? I would say that there are underlying dangers in such actions which jeopardize the credibility, standing and, at least in this case, the assets of the City of Nanaimo.

It is difficult to justify: “organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate…” and I do not propose to do so.  However, whether anyone or anything that may be associated in any way with such organizations or people creates an automatic basis for censure is, in my mind, at best obscure and at worst potentially as pernicious as the evil which it purports to overcome.

Added to the matters of conscience which afflict both positions, is the matter of contracts which is certainly less obscure, if still rife with questions.  Was there a contract between the presenters of the live cast and its local sponsors in Nanaimo? Was there a contract between the local sponsors of the event and the VICC Corporation or Atlific, the firm designated to operate the VICC?  There is certainly a contract between the VICC Corporation and the City which, if a claim is made could well be found in breach.  Which, if any, of these contracts could make the City liable for damages? When I asked City Staff after the meeting if a legal opinion in this matter had been sought, I was informed that it had not. I was flabbergasted.

As if this were not enough, the wording of the motion: “any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate…” leads to the implication that not only the organization presenting the livecast, but also its sponsors and presenters, may be indirectly promoting “divisiveness, homophobia or other expressions of hate”.  I wonder if Archbishop Tutu, Laura Bush, Malcolm Gladwell and the others speakers are aware of the censure of such association by the City.  If this interpretation is correct (I do not claim to be a lawyer), the City could find itself guilty of both slander and libel and to have put us at serious risk of legal costs. This, of course, remains to be seen.

I have been asked by several of the actors in this matter whether I would rent a facility to Neo-Nazis and was forced to consider this proposition. Two immediate questions of contract present themselves:

  1. Am I to respond before or after signing a contract? and
  2. If the latter, am I accepting any possible liability on my own behalf or on that of others.

If I understand the present situation correctly, the answer is that service was denied after entering into a valid contract and that unknown liability was thus accepted on behalf of the citizens of Nanaimo. These are question requiring legal opinion and as I have been told, the City neglected to seek such opinions.

As for the question of conscience involved, when I asked myself whether I would rent to neo-Nazis, I was also forced to ask myself what neo-Nazis might do under similar circumstances. The answer that I found was that the neo-Nazis would probably do precisely what the City Council of the City of Nanaimo has done. So where is the moral superiority?

We had best now look at the backgrounds of any group which wishes to rent a City facility not only for illegal activities, but for opinions, direct or indirect, which may rouse the ire of some group of citizens.  What stand are we to take on the Right to Life controversy, for example.  Democracy is fragile and we confuse our individual consciences and the laws and contracts that govern our society at its and our peril.

In the meantime, we need a list of such people and organizations as may fall under the purview of the motion adopted to be published in order to avoid possible contract difficulties in the future.

Your opinion on this issue is requested.

 

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