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 ‘Fart catcher’ is fair game 

October 25th,2023 | Opinion

Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard is probably not a “fart catcher.”

Director-general Sheena Ngalle Miano likely doesn’t practice voodoo or witchcraft, and Chelsea isn’t really a “banana republic.”

And anyone reading Facebook comments like this from the Gatineau Park Protection Committee (GPPC) – a.k.a. Jean-Paul Murray – would never believe such outlandish statements. 

That’s why it’s so baffling to see the municipality of Chelsea lawyering up to go after resident Murray – the chair of the (one-member?) organization – for “defamation, harassment and incivility.”

Sure, nobody likes to get called a “yellow, spineless, knuckle-dragging weasel,” a “coward,” or a “rat,” but as a politician, Guénard should just let this stuff roll off his shoulders. 

Other mayors have. 

Anyone who knows Murray is well aware of his constant attacks online, his incessant access-to-information requests and his often unfair comparisons of Chelsea politicians to world dictators. 

It’s been going on for decades — and most of it is either posted on Murray’s own GPPC Facebook page or on the Mean Chelsea Folks page (note the word “mean” in the title).

Staffers should never be subjected to harassment or insults in their workplace – never –, but according to the municipality, these statements were made on Facebook forums and public pages, not on Chelsea municipal pages, nor were they sent as direct messages or emails to staffers. All of Murray’s statements take place on online forums, and most people take his bizarre theories with a grain of salt.

What’s worse is that it will be extremely difficult for Chelsea to successfully argue in court that Murray’s comments defamed the municipality. The success rate of defamation cases in Canada is around 28 per cent, according to CanLII, a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and while Chelsea has only forked over about $450 so far on this case (2.3 hours of work), that number will certainly go up when this goes to trial — and it will because Murray has already said he would fight the charge. He immediately turned around and filed an access-to-information request regarding the defamation file against him. And here we go. 

The municipality also complained about Murray posting manipulated pictures of Mayor Guénard with a broken tooth and a clown nose. Really? Murray made a similar post about then-mayor Carol Green in 2021 — no lawsuit. Has the municipality seen last week’s Low Down cartoon that depicts “Lord Mayor” Guénard blasting residents at a recent council meeting? Should we be expecting a lawyer’s letter, too?

This is fair game for any politician. It’s political satire and it’s perfectly legal in Canada — and that means Chelsea, too, Mr. Lord Mayor. 

Chelsea is taking the bait and following Murray down the rabbit hole where it will waste more public money because someone’s feelings were a little bit hurt. 

This money would be much better spent protecting the environment or building homes for aging seniors and young families who can no longer afford to live in their own communities. 

Good luck, in court, Chelsea. 

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