Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker

Taking a stand against ‘keyboard cowards’

Mayor John Becker supports his Maple Ridge counterpart

Editor, The News

I am writing this open letter in support of my colleague, Mayor Nicole Read of the City of Maple Ridge.

It has become common knowledge that Mayor Read felt that she had no choice but to remove herself from public life for a period of time owing to threats to her and her family.

It is not my business to know the fine details of these concerns, it is sufficient that whatever they are, they have prevented a mayor from fulfilling the duties of her office. I find this situation appalling and extend my full support to Mayor Read and her family.

Unfortunately, this kind of attack is far too common. Mayor Read’s public reaction to these attacks may lead some people to believe that she has been singled out. This is not the case.

Throughout the province, mayors and councillors find themselves under unprecedented online attacks by those described by Pitt Meadows Coun. Bruce Bell as “keyboard cowards.” To the best of my knowledge, this has resulted in a number of resignations to date and statements made to me by sitting officials that they will not be running again.

I was first elected in 2002. Prior to that, I had never seen or heard of the level of vicious personal attacks being levied against local government officials. In my case, these have included threats of being punched out and kicked to the curb. Numerous allegations of bribery and conflict of interest were levelled against me.

While to some extent, even local government politicians are expected to have a thick skin; it is unreasonable to expect the same of our families. My wife and daughter have, in some cases, been targetted and greatly upset by these activities. I have discussed how best to respond to these unfair and unfounded accusations with our chief administrative officer, as well some council colleagues. The recommendation thus far is to simply turn the other cheek with the belief that a lack of reaction, like with some bullies, will cause them to turn away. This has not proved to be the case. The level of vicious personal attacks continues to increase, and are expected to continue to escalate as we approach the next election in October 2018.

Mayor Read’s courageous position and public defiance cannot be allowed to stand alone. Where public debate crosses the line from passionate but respectful disagreement to physical threats, lies and defamation, action must be taken.

It is my intention to “out” these keyboard cowards by publishing copies of their attacks and identifying the authors. Where these contain physical threats to me or my family, they will be reported to the RCMP. Where they contain lies and misinformation, these will be publicly corrected. Where they contain actionable defamatory statements, recourse is available.

I stand with my colleague Mayor Read and say “No More.” There is now a clear line in the sand and those who cross it will immediately be held accountable.

John Becker

Mayor Pitt Meadows