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'The anger is there': Nanaimo councillor says he was told to watch his back

The threat came at the end of a sometimes loud council meeting attended by several opponents of the city’s alternative approval process
Nanaimo Coun. Tyler Brown, who said he is not frightened, did not report the threat to the RCMP. SUBMITTED

Nanaimo Coun. Tyler Brown said a man approached him at the end of a recent meeting, looked him in the eye and warned: “You need to watch your back, Brown.”

The middle-aged man did not identify himself or explain why he was angry, Brown said Wednesday.

The threat came at the end of a sometimes loud council meeting on Feb. 5 attended by several opponents to the city’s alternative-approval process, which has since been scrapped. Brown said he does not know if the man was part of that group.

The encounter happened after the meeting wrapped up, while Brown was packing up his materials, he said.

Another man at the meeting “was shouting all sorts of things at council” and carrying a sign saying something about a gas chamber, he said. “And then he made some comment that really I think the implication was that council deserves the gas chamber.”

Brown, who said he is not frightened, did not report the threat to the RCMP.

It’s not the first time Brown has been harassed, he said. In council’s previous term, the father of two young children, who was also chairing the Nanaimo Regional District board at the time, said dog feces were frequently left in the yard of his former home.

He worries that poor behaviour by some will discourage people from running for council, pointing to rising incivility and aggressive behaviour toward city staff and council members.

“It’s just become a worrying trend to me overall,” he said. “I’m speaking a little more freely about it because I’ve seen this trend over the last few years and I don’t think it leads to a good place if we don’t start talking about it.”

He said typically, those who approach him angrily do not try to engage with him to discuss an issue.

He thinks that for some, the issue at hand is “the flavour of the week and something for them to latch onto.”

“There’s been obviously a growing segment of society that behaves a certain way and seems to be going from issue to issue.”

Brown urges people to speak about their concerns in a conversation. “At the end of the day, we all want to be heard.”

Dale Lindsay, Nanaimo’s chief administrative officer, said security is always on hand during council meetings and RCMP are aware of when meetings are held.

Police attended the most recent council meeting this week, the first since Feb. 5.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, who has the authority to clear council chambers, cautioned members of the public at this week’s meeting against any disorder.

People sometimes bring large signs to council, he said — one woman at this week’s meeting held a sign with the words “Bribed or blackmailed” for unclear reasons.

Another time, a member of the public yelled at a new staffer, calling out a “hurtful” name, he said.

Krog recently called 911 when his car was surrounded by about a dozen people seeking his support for a political cause.

He had left city hall and got into his vehicle when one person stood immediately behind the car and another immediately in front.

Krog said he told the group he would call the RCMP if they didn’t move. They didn’t, so he called 911 and left the phone on. The group dispersed and Krog left.

“There’s general incivility in society,” said Krog, who pointed to provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and former cabinet minister Selina Robinson receiving death threats.

“It is a very disturbing trend,” he said. “We owe it to each other to be civil and kind.”