Maple Ridge Councillor Corisa Bell has taken to Facebook in hopes of ending what she says is years of bullying by her fellow colleagues and the effects it’s taken on her health.
Bell wrote a long and passionate post on Wednesday, Oct. 25 in what she said she hopes will cast a light on the issue and change the discourse between herself on the rest of council.
“I’ve been told I’ve been on two councils now and it will look like I’m the problem,” Bell wrote on Facebook. “I’ve been threatened to be sued, I’ve been threatened to be reported to the police for harassment, I’ve been threatened with HR claims for harassment, and some of this is playing out behind the scenes as we speak. This all because I ask questions, and these questions are what the public is asking me, the questions I ask should simply have answers not consequences.”
Bell said she is awaiting test results on a tumor on her thyroid glands and is waiting for test results. She was away from council on sick leave from November 2016 before returning in the summer, which she attribute to the stress of bully on council.
“One hundred per cent — absolutely all the health challenges that I have faced over the the last year have been because prolonged adreanal stress,” said Bell.
Bell said the majority of the poor behaviour takes place in the city’s closed meetings, however some makes its way to the chamber floor, which is broadcast live, but only when viewership is low.
She said she is no longer going to sit back and let certain members of council continue to bully her.
“Absolutely, going forward, what I will be doing differently is is I am saying no, you can not make these statements, you can not tell me I am ridiculous. It’s my turn to speak now and just stand up for myself,” said Bell.
Bell said she intends to post every action she deems to cross the line from debate to bullying on her Facebook, to let the public see what’s going on with council. However, said she won’t be naming names.
“That hasn’t been working. That behaviour is continuing even though I am standing up for myself,” said Bell.
Going forward, her intention is to document it publicly on her Facebook page, she said.
“I do not plan at all on making it about who said what, but rather it’s about the behaviour.”
Bell said leaderships starts at the top of any organization and that Maple Ridge council, when it comes to the issue of bullying, is lacking.
“I think that leadership is all of us that sits at that table,” said Bell, “and we are the leaders in the community, so it’s up to us to set that example.”
Mayor Nicole Read said she agrees that members of council have an obligation to respect the rights of councillors to publicly express their views.
As for Bell’s contention of bullying behind closed door meetings, Read said this is the second council that Bell has been part of where she has made the same accusation. Read said council has a number of important issues on its plate and hopes council can move forward for the sake of the public.
“Homelessness has certainly been a contentious issue,” said the mayor. “There are a lot of points of view around the table and I think we do our best to work through those issues respectfully with each other. Sometimes we have heated conversations and we get to an outcome that we can live with, but I’m not going to get into the specifics. I know that there has been a number of comments that have been made from the public, concerning Corisa’s health status and I don’t think it is would be advisable for me to get into some kind of he said, she said back-and-forth.
Read said using Facebook as a platform can be contentious issue, as she’s been subject to bullying, both online and in person. She said those on Bell’s Facebook page have also been guilty of bullying.
“Some of the individuals who have supported her are the biggest harassers in our community. That’s not all of them by any means, but I’m taking about a certain handful of people,” said Read.
Bell said she’ stands by her decision to take her message to her followers on Facebook.
“I don’t believe in censorship, fundamentally,” said Bell. “I believe social media provides an opportunity for conversation that otherwise maybe, wouldn’t be possible. So I see it as as a gift to public conversation and engagement and I feel that what I am trying to get across is that we are all human beings and what is happening is not acceptable. Bullying isn’t unique to politicians. We are the leaders and it needs to start at the top.”