Cross-connected pipes still generate discussion at council meetings
In a court ruling noted human rights lawyer Julius Grey called a "victory for freedom of expression," Kirkland blogger Sergei Brovkin was found not guilty Mar. 5 of posting libelous content on the Kirkland Citizens Association (KCA) blog last summer.
Kirkland Citizens Association's petition requesting the city assume repair costs for the cross-connected pipes has surpassed 2000 signatures. (Left to right) KCA members Benjie Calcetas, Therese Baco, Joe Baco. Chronicle photo Rob Amyot.
Kirkland council initiated legal proceedings against Brovkin for remarks it claimed were “...excessive in the circumstances, misleading and defamatory,” in a June 19, 2011 blog posting which described councillor Andre Allard reporting his cross-connection repair bill from Kirkland appointed plumber Richard Leduc as costing $1,000 while neighbouring citizens were quoted prices between $2,000 and $2,500 by the same plumber.
The suit further claimed council, and Allard, "...has served and continues to serve the interests of the municipality, has an exemplary and unblemished track record, and have always acted in the interest of their citizens.”
"They were seeking removal of two posts from the webpage," said Brovkin, "reserving the right to sue me for defamation."
Questioned after the Mar. 5 Kirkland council meeting, Allard said the city would have to study Quebec Superior Court Judge Jean-Pierre Sénécal's ruling with its lawyer to determine if there were grounds for appeal. "As soon as we look at what the judgement says, we'll see whether it's case-closed or not." Allard went on to say he felt Brovkin's comments were an attack on him personally, saying he benefitted from his position as a councillor. "That's why, as a city, we came forward with the (legal) procedure," he said, claiming Brovkin's comments were heresy and unacceptable.
When citizen Philomena Netto addressed council at the meeting to ask how much taxpayer money had been spent in the case against Brovkin, director general Joe Sanalitro replied, "the answer to costs associated to legal actions are actually protected by the access to information." When Netto pointed out it was citizens' money used to fight another citizen, Sanalitro declined further comment until Kirkland decided its next course of action.
"The city was told it can't stop citizens from protesting its activities," said Grey reached the day after the ruling. "We think of this as a good precedent for all of Quebec and Canada."
Though most Kirkland residents have recognized the environmental ramifications of discharging raw sewage into local waterways and have taken corrective measures, the question of responsibility remains in dispute.
Presiding KCA officer Benjie Calcetas told The Chronicle that the petition circulated by residents Joe and Thérèse Baco requesting Kirkland absorb all repair costs has now surpassed 2000 signatures and continues to grow. The city acknowledged receipt of the petitions in its council meeting correspondence minutes. Pointe Claire resident Ginny Frare attended the meeting as a show of support for the affected Kirkland citizens.
"I wanted to know why citizens had to pay for a problem that stems from the early 1970s," she said. "They (council) knew about this in the 1990s. Nothing was ever mentioned then and now these people are obliged to pay." Frare also said she wanted to shake Brovkin's hand for his favourable court ruling but questioned why he had to pay his own lawyer while council used taxpayer's money. "I'm very happy Sergei won today," she said. "He won over something that was unjust."