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City hall appointee’s ‘misogynistic’ Facebook posts broke code of conduct, says integrity commissioner

Vancouver city hall’s integrity commissioner said Kit Sauder broke the code of conduct bylaw with posts on a Facebook group that denigrated Colleen Hardwick and her political party.

Vancouver city hall’s integrity commissioner has recommended the co-chair of the Vancouver Renters Advisory Committee be reprimanded for comments made against a city councillor. 

Lisa Southern’s Oct. 19 report found Kit Sauder broke the code of conduct bylaw with posts on a Facebook group that denigrated Colleen Hardwick and her political party.

“Whether a female leader is being described as a ‘bitch,’ a ‘witch,’ ‘wicked,' a ‘nasty woman,’ or a ‘(climate) Barbie; (which was the description used by a reporter for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna during an interaction in 2017), the impact is the same – negative, discriminatory stereotypes are being applied to women who seek and/or hold political office,” Southern wrote. 

“In this case, it is not a member of the public making these comments: it is an advisory board member making them against a council member. The respondent’s position requires him to adhere to the code of conduct. He is in a position of leadership and responsibility for the City of Vancouver.”

Southern investigated a June 12 complaint from a member of the public against Sauder and received additional evidence provided Aug. 3. Political strategist Sauder worked in the BC Liberal government from 2013 to 2017 under Premier Christy Clark and managed the OneBurnaby party’s campaign in the Oct. 15 election. He admitted that he targeted Hardwick and that his Facebook posts on the VanPoli group were “made as a result of an emotional reaction to previous exchanges.”

Southern ruled that “the terminology used to describe Council Member Hardwick in the Facebook posts was gendered and perpetuated harmful stereotypes when addressing a colleague.” She did not find fault with Sauder’s tweets.

“He admitted the Facebook posts were inappropriate and described the language he used to describe Council Member Hardwick as ‘misogynistic.’ He acknowledged he should not have made the comments,” Southern wrote.

The report said both advisory board members and councillors have the right to hold and express opinions and engage in free speech consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But Southern cited human rights tribunal decisions that found “gendered, demeaning language” in the workplace has violated human rights codes. 

The city’s code of conduct requires advisory board members and council members to “treat members of the public, one another and staff respectfully, without abuse, bullying or intimidation and ensure that the work environment is free from discrimination and harassment.” 

Southern interviewed Sauder and two witnesses, who were not named in the report. She suspended the investigation between Sept. 29 and Oct. 16 due to the election. 

The finding against Sauder is Southern’s second investigation report published in 2022. In July, Southern found Mayor Kennedy Stewart had broken the code of conduct when he published a series of misleading tweets in March against Hardwick’s proposed plebiscite on the 2030 Winter Olympics bid. 

Stewart wrongly stated that a plebiscite would contravene an agreement with the Resort Municipality of Whistler and four First Nations. The memorandum of agreement clearly stated it was not legally binding and it did not contain any clause that would have prevented putting a question about the bid to voters. 

Prior to Southern’s appointment at the start of 2022, investigations were handled on an as- and when-needed basis by lawyer Henry Wood. In July 2019, Wood cleared Hardwick of conflict of interest after a complaint by Abundant Housing Vancouver activist Peter Waldkirch. Wood found no evidence that the 2018-elected councillor used her civic engagement company improperly.

Hardwick ran under the TEAM for a Livable Vancouver banner on Oct. 15 and finished third in the mayoral election.