2018 Cortes Election Drama: The Facebook Facepalm


(Note: this page is an annexe to the larger story of this incident; the larger history is not for publication, and is available by request only; I do not wish to stir up this controversy again, as it was so acrimonious and destructive the first time around.)

After the surprise appearance of an open letter making mild allegations of sexual harassment against running candidate George Sirk, the Cortes Island Is Home Facebook group exploded in passionate debate. For several days, a wide variety of participants posted everything from measured analysis to flaming rants on the topic.

Posters debated the appropriateness of the letter, the morality of making it public, the likelihood of the allegation being true, the politics of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement in general. The conversation was far ranging, often going a bit over the borders of civility. It was hard on the volunteer moderator.

Eventually, unable to cope with the stress, the moderator quit and a new moderator team volunteered. One of the new moderators was Bertha Jeffery, local storekeeper and long-time opponent of RD Noba Anderson. (Ms Jeffery is one of the petitioners against RD Anderson.) The other was Annuschka, and I hope someone will tell me her surname; I apologise for not remembering it. Shortly after the change of moderators, the entire thread (at least a hundred posts) was deleted by the moderators. Despite protests, it was not restored.

This unilateral decision destroyed the archival record of the debate, including both original documents (Open Letters 1 and 2) and all the comments made by various residents (and in some cases non-residents). It also destroyed the history of the "Noba engineered this" conspiracy theory, which was energetically debated in this thread. However, one foresighted islander took the time to tackle a weary, tedious task -- and captured screen shots of most of the thread.

I wanted to mention just one moment in this discussion that unsettled me somewhat. During a discussion of the merits or demerits of the conspiracy theory, the sitting Regional Director of our neighbouring Area (Jim Abram of Quadra Island, RD for Area C) intervened in defence of one candidate and (as I read it) to attack the other. The posts in question:

As I read these remarks, the sense I get (particularly from the last ones which use words like "orchestrated" and "smear campaign") is that RD Abram was implicitly endorsing the conspiracy theory. Others may read it differently, of course. My impression of his posts is that he was quite angry with the open letter writers, and by extension with RD Anderson.

It struck me at the time as inappropriate for a sitting RD to intervene in a discussion among voters in a neighbouring Area, during an election, on such a controversial topic. Mr Abram and Mr Sirk are old friends and colleagues, and one understands that his emotions and loyalty were engaged -- how could they not be? However, in my view, professional conduct and ethical considerations should have prompted him to avoid participating in the debate, particularly in such heated terms.

I was further disturbed when I discovered in SRD minutes that Mr Abram had been appointed in January to head a Select Committee for Ligitation. If this committee at any point in future is required to discuss or advise on the litigation against RD Anderson, then I hope he will recuse himself. A degree of personal bias seems fairly evident from his FB posts, and I wonder whether it has contributed to the difficulties our RD experiences in her relationship with the SRD Board.

Epilogue:

* A majority of the Cortes Island Is Home members did not approve of the deletion of this long thread. They expressed their disapproval by abandoning the group and creating a new one, We Heart Cortes Island.

* After dramatic denials and threats of litigation at the Candidates' Forum on Cortes, Mr Sirk a few days later issued his own open letter admitting the truth of the allegation.


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De Clarke
Cortes Island BC
The opinions expressed in this page are my own, and should not be imputed to any other persons unless they expressly endorse them in public. They do not reflect the views or position of any entity or person other than myself.