Nanaimo city council rescinds motion to ban event

NANAIMO – Mayor says the city will release what information it can about the financial repercussions of a former vote.

Nanaimo city council has reversed its decision to ban certain events at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, expressing apologies and regret for the motion and its misinterpretation.

In an open meeting Thursday, Nanaimo city council unanimously recalled its motion to advise the conference centre against allowing events associated with people or organizations that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia or other expressions of hate. The mayor also issued an apology and said the city will release what information it can about the financial repercussions of the previous decision.

Nanaimo city council created a social media firestorm earlier this month, after it opted to restrict certain events from the conference centre, including a live leadership simulcast.  According to Coun. Fred Pattje, who introduced the original May 5 motion, the move was in response to concerns from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, which felt the Leadercast simulcast was offensive and shouldn’t happen in a public facility.

The event is sponsored by American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, whose chief operating officer has spoken out against same-sex marriage.

But members of the public, including the Christian community, have raised concerns that the city’s move to protect one community group has violated the rights and freedoms of another.

“The goal was to have the May 9 Leadercast event cancelled based on the LGBTQ expressed concern with one sponsor and one speaker. A one-off so to speak,” said Pattje, who introduced the recall.

“As we now all know and very painfully so, that intent has been interpreted in a very different manner by the people in and outside our community and as such it has defeated the original purpose of my May 5 motion.”

Pattje added that the concerns of the LGTBQ community still exist and he hopes solutions can be found so that if a similar situation happens in the future, “we may be better prepared to promote and to protect the inclusivity of all our citizens.”

Mayor John Ruttan apologized for any negative comments directed at people of all faiths and the actions stated in the original motion, pointing out that council did not intend to curtail freedom of speech.

“The motion was aimed at preventing divisiveness and hate, but instead caused the opposite,” he said.

Coun. Diana Johnstone expressed regret that the motion and resulting vote was misinterpreted to imply council banned Christians from using city facilities, which she said could not be further from the truth.

The City of Nanaimo has reached a financial settlement with the Nanaimo Daily News, the promoter of the Leadercast event.

A confidentiality agreement is in place and the mayor said details cannot be released unless both sides are in agreement.

According to Ruttan, the city will share what information it can, understanding the costs are paid for by taxpayers.