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Vancouver council will not impose sanctions against Christine Boyle

Case involved complaint from Mayor Ken Sim about comments directed at his new communications director, Harrison Fleming.
Six ABC Vancouver councillors and two Green Party members were unanimous Tuesday in not imposing sanctions against Christine Boyle for public comments she directed at Mayor Ken Sim’s communications director.

Vancouver city council was unanimous Tuesday in not imposing further punishment against one of its own members — Christine Boyle — for her public remarks directed at the mayor’s new communications director in the summer.

In an 8-0 vote, six ABC Vancouver councillors and two Green Party members agreed to endorse recommendations by the city’s integrity commissioner, Lisa Southern, who decided not to impose sanctions against Boyle.

Southern’s reasoning was based on the OneCity councillor issuing a public apology in September to Harrison Fleming via the X social media platform and offering to apologize directly to him — “remedies I would have made in this case,” Southern wrote in her ruling.

'Top internet bullies'

Council had to decide Tuesday whether to endorse Southern’s ruling or impose sanctions that could have included public censure, a letter of reprimand or have Boyle forced to attend specific training or counselling.

But there was no staff presentation or debate in what turned out to be a quick dispatching of the item, although it was noted Boyle had circulated a letter to other members of council prior to the vote.

It was the same letter that Boyle sent to Southern in September in which she apologized for what she said about Fleming, who previously worked for the governments of Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta.

Boyle had called Fleming “one of Kenney’s top Internet bullies, harassing opponents of the government as Kenney worked to deny climate change and to enable and empower anti-maskers and COVID deniers.”

She also retweeted a post from her party that said the Ontario government Fleming worked for was “in the middle of an $8 billion corruption scandal and is being investigated by the RCMP,” according to Southern’s report, which was posted Oct. 6 to the city’s website.

'Respect and decorum'

Boyle's comments were made via what was then Twitter and in an email that was circulated to people on her party’s mailing list. At the request of Mayor Ken Sim, who filed the complaint with the integrity commissioner’s office, Boyle pinned an apology to her Twitter account.

It read: “As a public official, I have a duty to uphold a high standard of respect and decorum. In August, I failed to do so when discussing the hiring of the mayor's newest team member, Harrison Fleming. On reflection, certain parts of my comments crossed a line. Where we disagree, we owe it to each other to disagree respectfully. I apologize to him and retract my statements.”

In finding that Boyle had breached the city’s code of conduct, Southern wrote that the councillor’s comments “were disrespectful and arguably defamatory.”

Southern said that such accusations against Fleming were “problematic as they were personally directed and stated as fact versus opinion, and as such, constitute disrespectful conduct…”

Fleming previously said in an email to Glacier Media that Southern’s investigation of the complaint “speaks for itself” and that he was “satisfied with its conclusions and remedies.”