Public Forums at Council Meetings are to allow residents to speak about matters of concern to them that are not on the agenda
Residents have the right to speak to their government, the Richmond Hill Procedures of Council By-law confirms it. However, it seems that in Richmond Hill the Public Forum does not guarantee the right of all residents to speak if Councillors don’t want to hear what they have to say.
On February 18, 2021, the CBC show Fifth Estate detailed the tragic 2019 murder of Richmond Hill teenager, David Roman.
While the boy was in the care of a for-profit foster home operated by Expanding Horizons Family Services, he was brutally murdered by another resident, a teen.
According to the CBC report, "Expanding Horizons president Carmine Perrelli, who serves as its senior finance manager, is also deputy mayor/regional councillor of Richmond Hill." Councillor Perrelli’s connection to the foster care business was news to many.
After the show aired, Richmond Hill resident Carol Davidson, applied to speak to Council on February 24th through the Public Forum but she was quickly muted.
(view original meeting video here at timestamp 3:23)
Councillor Greg Beros claimed he knew “where the speaker was going” and that “this has nothing to do with the City of Richmond Hill.” His objection was approved by the Chair and Ms. Davidson was immediately removed from the zoom meeting before she could make a statement, ask a question or offer condolences to David Roman’s family. Ms. Davidson wanted to ask the “Mayor and all members of this Council, to ensure that there is accountability. That no Council decisions are made that may be in conflict with the personal businesses of Council members.” And to ask them “to show leadership” and ensure a “commitment to being accountable and transparent in our actions on behalf of the community.” Residents have used Public Forums to speak freely, voice anger, and ask questions about many different topics without being censored or removed from meetings.
The Code of Conduct calls on members of Council to “affirm the respect and integrity in the democratic decision-making processes…” Councillor Beros prevented Ms. Davidson from speaking deeming her remarks inappropriate before she spoke.
This behaviour aligns more with an authoritarian regime rather than protected rights in our Canadian democracy.