An insult to elected officials, courtesy of the office of the Chief Judge of BC's Provincial Court

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
November 6th, 2018

Traditionally, the solemn swearing-in ceremony for Rossland’s municipal council members has taken place at the historic Rossland courthouse, with a robed judge officiating. But not this year.

On July 18, City of Rossland Executive Assistant Alison Worsfold sent the usual letter requesting to have the  ceremony at the courthouse.  Over three months later, she received a reply – denying permission.

The response from the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, dated October 24, stated (inter alia):

“The primary purpose of the courthouse is a place [sic] where litigants come to have their cases heard by independent and impartial judges, masters and registrars.  It is important for public confidence in the administration of justice that the courthouses continue to be seen as worthy of the respect that the public places in them.  There are also security and cost issues associated with keeping a courthouse open after regular business hours.”

This rather insulting response seems to place elected municipal council members and their oath of office somewhat lower on the scale of respect than the petty criminals and disputing litigants whose cases are heard in courthouses.  Yet, municipal Council members are responsible for a great deal about how we live in our communities, and recommendations from the Union of BC Municipalities also go to the provincial Legislature. As for the cost,  there was no opportunity for the local communities to negotiate payment for the additional costs of keeping the courthouse open.

Mayor Moore was very disappointed by the denial and the tone of the letter, and responded with a letter in which she said, inter alia,

“I categorically disagree that the solemn swearing-in ceremony of the officials elected to uphold legislated responsibilities and thoughtfully guide the municipalities for the next four years would in any way compromise the public’s respect for the courthouse. That is actually quite insulting to elected officials if you think about it. You also mention security and cost concerns as a reason to deny our request. I am sure we could cover the reasonable costs if you were willing to discuss it with us. 

“In any case, I don’t imagine this additional plea will change anything at this late date, but I feel compelled to express my disappointment and request that you share it with both the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Perhaps this policy can be reconsidered prior to the next election.”

Meanwhile, City staff scrambled to find a venue for the ceremony, which included all the mayors and council members for Fruitvale, Montrose, and Warfield as well as Rossland.  Thanks to the Prestige Mountain Resort, the ceremony took place as scheduled.  Judge R. Brown officiated, wearing a suit rather than judicial robes.

Each elected mayor and council member read out the Oath of Office, solemnly affirmed the truth of it, and signed it before the judge. Here’s the text of the oath:

"I,  [name of person elected], do solemnly affirm that:

• I am qualified to hold the office of [ Mayor or Councillor] for the … [jurisdiction] … to which I have been elected;

• I have not, by myself or any other person, knowingly contravened the Local Government Act respecting vote buying or intimidation in relation to my election to the office;

• I will faithfully perform the duties of my office, and will not allow any private interest to influence my conduct in public matters;

• as required by the Community Charter, I will disclose any direct or indirect pecuniary interest I have in a matter and will not participate in the discussion of the matter and will not vote in respect of the matter."

Rossland’s new Council will hold its inaugural meeting starting at 6:00 pm on Thursday, November 8, 2018, at the Miners Union Hall.

Pictured below: all the elected officials of Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale and Rossland.

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