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Respectful conversation

Over the years, I've spent many hours attending in-person and virtual meetings and viewing many live-stream meetings.

Usually, council meetings, public information meetings and board meetings can be either sparsely attended by the public, or, when there is a crowd, they have usually been respectful crowds. However, what has increasingly become a concern for me is the decorum of audience members at Durham District School Board meetings.

Two recent examples stick out in my mind. I'll start with the most recent one. At this past board meeting, on Tuesday, February 21st, the board chair had to give members of the audience several warnings, not to shout comments following the public question period. When these warnings were not followed, the chair was forced to call a short recess to regain control of the meeting. When watching this meeting, it reminded me of a similar moment at a November meeting. During a discussion on masking at this meeting, audience members interrupted trustees several times with shouted comments.

I'm not against the public raising their concerns to elected officials. These are the people residents elect to represent them, after all. But, a resident's opinion is seen in a better light, by public officials, when people calmly articulate their points and follow and respect protocols.

Democratic processes are in place for a reason and should be respected. Meetings among elected officials should not be delayed or stopped just because some residents aren't happy. And if a person doesn't like their elected official's decisions, there is an election in three years where an impact can be made.

From the examples I listed above; two things are clear to me. First, there is a lot of anger in the community, and people are divided. Politics at the federal, provincial and international levels have divided parties, and decisions made regarding the COVID-19 pandemic remain controversial among some residents. The fact last year's Ottawa convoy protest remains a talking point, is proof of this.

The second point is, there is a need for empathy. While a person may be upset about a decision or the answer to a question, they need to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are talking to. Think, would you want someone to come to your job and shout at you just because they don't like the work you've done?

Contrary to the old saying, the loudest voice doesn't always get the most done.

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