Chilliwack Board of School Trustees faces legal action over freedom of expression concerns

Chilliwack Board of School Trustees faces legal action over freedom of expression concerns

[One of the ways lefish school boards silence parent delegation is by turning off the microphone, claiming that the remarks are discriminatory. Usually they are not, but, even if so, so what: The TAXPAYERS have a Charter right to petition their elected representatives.]

Isaac Lamoureux

A grandmother is suing a B.C. school board she says violated her rights by shutting her down at a public meeting.

Lynda Di Armani is taking the Chilliwack Board of School Trustees to court after being interrupted and having her microphone cut off when she attempted to raise attention to a conflict of interest she said one of the board members had.

Di Armani, a grandmother and former school employee, began her time in the meeting by saying that trustee Teri Westerby had brought forward a motion about flying a pride flag during pride month, despite being the director of marketing for the local pride society.

Board chair Willow Rechelt and vice-chair Carin Bondar interrupted Di Armani and claimed her statements were “discriminatory.”

Di Armani was interrupted several times and her microphone was cut off, before she was eventually told to sit down before she had finished speaking, according to video of the meeting.

Di Armani alleges in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) that the board’s treatment of her violated her Charter right to freedom of expression.

“Elected officials exercising government power must respect Canadians’ Charter freedoms. The Chilliwack School Board’s actions show a disregard for not only my client’s freedom of expression but also for the listening public, who have a right to hear diverse views at Board meetings,” said Marty Moore, Di Armani’s lawyer.

The allegation has not been proven in court and the Chilliwack school board did not respond to a request for comment from True North.

While the chair is authorized to cut off the remarks of speakers who don’t comply with their bylaw, the chair is not allowed to silence people simply because of disagreement with what they are saying, the JCCF says.

Di Armani is petitioning the court for a declaration that the board overstepped its bounds and violated her Charter rights. Additionally, she is seeking court orders to prevent similar behaviours in the future and to permit the public to record these meetings on their own devices.

Upon entry, Di Armani alleges she was mandated to sign a declaration confirming she would not record the session. This policy, Di Armani contends, means the board retains exclusive control over the meeting’s recordings, potentially allowing for selective muting or editing, thereby infringing upon the public’s right to fully hear, listen, and weigh alternative viewpoints. (True North, October 20, 2023)