I have been avoiding social media this week, for obvious reasons. But I have been told that Bob Bruton at Barrie Today continues to mis-represent my statements, despite being informed of this error on Sept.27. His response to that correction was "That's not what Coun. Natalie Harris says". – That he would publish this slander about me without citing any evidence or example, then refuse to correct a mis-representation of my statement calls into serious question his journalistic integrity.
For the record, this was my statement on Tuesday, sent to both Barrie Today and Simcoe.com:
"It is frustrating and disappointing that all the incredible work of a local, grassroots organization is being cast into question by a political satire account that has absolutely nothing to do with that organization—the Biased Scribe is not associated with Engage Barrie Organization, it existed long before Engage Barrie, and is not affiliated or endorsed in any way by Engage Barrie Organization. (That said, it also comments on all members of Council, not just Councillor Harris – and a quick search for “@biasedscribe @justnatharris” will clearly show that the account has given her praise as well.)
That Councillor Harris is breaking the City’s Code of Conduct again, labelling residents as “harassers” for holding Council accountable – much as she did in 2020 to Holly McDaniel, and to other members of Engage Barrie who cannot be named, due to settled informal complaints to the Integrity Commissioner – is just as frustrating, yet not surprising.
From the beginning, Engage was clear that it was comprised of individuals who did not necessarily share the same views, opinions or politics, but who were determined that all voices be heard and considered by City Council. When speaking for Engage, individuals were expected to adhere to Engage policies and values, but as engaged members of the public, they were free to have and express their own viewpoints and opinions.
It is unfortunate that current members of Council won’t allow the same independence, and are attempting to discredit an entire organization based on the opinions of one satirical character."
My Friday letter of leave to the Board, which was also provided to both Barrie Today and Simcoe.com read as follows:
"Dear Paige, Kenzie, Myrna and Rob
I am writing to regretfully inform you that I shall be taking leave from Engage Barrie Organization, effective immediately.
This week’s media frenzy has taken away from the great work the board, election committee, and all members have been doing. It is also distracting from getting the candidates’ messages across, and the democratic process at large.
If my involvement is proving to be an impediment to the democratic process, then I need to not be involved, for the sake of the public good, and democracy.
While we all know that I have never engaged in targeted harassment of anyone based on gender or race, nor have I made any threats, made fun of anyone’s heritage, or used racial epithets against anyone on council (or anyone else, for that matter), these slanderous accusations are nevertheless “sticking” to both myself and Engage Barrie – in a week when the story should be about the candidates, and their ideas for the city.
That the mayor did not tag myself, or any of the many other organizations I volunteer for in his tweet, but instead targeted Engage Barrie Organization — a non-profit that advocates for Council accountability – is telling. That other Councillors are using their dislike of me to try and smear the reputation of the organization that holds them accountable is also very telling.
For the sake of Engage, the movement, and democracy, I need to remove myself, so it is clear that Engage is not just me, but a strong team of local leaders committed to advocating for an equitable community, empowered people, and an engaged local democracy.
I trust you and the membership will continue to hold Council accountable in my absence, and keep working to stop this silencing of dissent.
Engage's statement from Tuesday is available here.
And their press release about my leave-taking is here.
That is absolutely all I will say on the subject, until we decide my next steps in dealing with this slanderstorm. Thank you for your patience.