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Stratford Council’s meeting Tuesday night was abruptly cancelled by Mayor Ritsma, causing anger and frustration for the approximately 100 people in attendance. The public meeting was scheduled to consider the controversial application of Juliana Development, Inc. for an amendment to the Zoning By-law. The company is proposing a 10-storey tower in their redevelopment of the old Krug factory at Trinity and King. The meeting was to invite public comment.

Despite being “banned” from attending public buildings, Mike Sullivan attended the meeting to speak to some of the environmental difficulties of the project. His attendance led to the meeting’s unprecedented cancellation.

Earlier that day, renowned environmental lawyer David Donnelly wrote Stratford’s Chief of Police to advise police not to unlawfully interfere with Mr. Sullivan’s Constitutional rights to address Council at City Hall. In the letter Donnelly wrote, “In my opinion, the proposed [Sullivan] ban is unconstitutional and illegal. The Stratford Police should resist the Mayor’s attempt to use the police to enforce this improper “ban”. “For the Mayor to unilaterally cancel the meeting and then say there was some sort of safety risk is a farce that needs to be investigated, and the Mayor needs to be called to account”, Donnelly added.

The Council chambers were packed to overflowing. Although most attendees were in favour of at least some aspects of the development, a number of residents stated they had not received adequate notice for the meeting. However, the audience was patient and attentive.

Mr. Sullivan arrived at City Hall at approximately 6:45pm, took a seat, and hardly spoke to anyone. The Mayor was then observed by several people having an animated discussion with two police officers in the hallway leading to Council Chambers. The meeting did not begin at 7pm, as scheduled. At 7:10pm a member of the audience called out to the Deputy Mayor to begin the meeting without the Mayor. At 7:15pm another member of the audience called out that Robert’s Rules of Order required the cancellation of the meeting. The room became noticeably restless. Councillor Hunter then left to look for the Mayor.

Shortly afterwards, Mayor Ritsma entered the gallery to ask Sullivan if he intended to make a presentation. Sullivan said yes, and declined the Mayor’s suggestion that he have someone else read his deputation. Ritsma asked Sullivan to leave twice, and Sullivan refused both times. The Mayor then left.

At approximately 7:25pm Mayor Ritsma appeared at the podium, and cancelled the meeting. The room erupted into a scene seldom witnessed in the chambers of Stratford City Council. Unkind words were spoken. Booing and cries of “shame” were heard.

Interviewed after the meeting, Mayor Ritsma explained, “You know, we like to do what’s right, and there was an individual wanting to create an unsafe situation. It’s not fair to our staff. I want to do what’s safe for everybody. I want to allow process to proceed.”

 

— from the press —

“Political spectacle ensues as banned citizen shows up for public meeting.”   Connor Lucza, Stratford Times, May 30, 2024.

“Council meeting postponed as Sullivan defies ban.” Matt Harris, Stratford Today, May 30, 2024

“Anger boils over as Stratford Council meeting is cancelled early” Jeff Pickel, CTV News, Kitchener, May 30, 2024

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