Response was wrong: Friel
Use of expletive causes mayor to step away from mediation process over boundary deal
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel says he should not have used profanity when he felt his integrity was questioned at an August meeting involving city, Brant County and Six Nations officials.
“While the remark to incite my reaction was absolutely uncalled for, in retrospect I should have responded differently,” Friel said in a statement Wednesday. “As I have consistently demonstrated since I first took office 23 years ago, I’m a very passionate and vocal advocate for Indigenous issues.
“I care deeply about these issues and the Six Nations community.”
Friel issued the statement in response to questions from The Expositor about an Aug. 9 meeting involving representatives from Six Nations, Brantford and Brant County. The meeting was held to determine if a mediation process is needed to address concerns from Six Nations that they had not been properly consulted with respect to the Brantford-Brant County boundary deal.
The deal, with provincial government approval, transferred 2,719 hectares of county territory to the city and came into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
The August meeting was held under the guidance of Michael Bryant, a former Ontario attorney general, who was asked to look into the matter by Premier Kathleen Wynne.
During the meeting. Phil Mont u re, the Six Nations land claims researcher, said to Friel: “That is why I don’t trust you.”
In response, Friel said, “F--- you, Phil,” and left the meeting.
Friel, in his statement, said he was frustrated by Monture’s remark because of his years of work in building a relationship with Six Nations.
“This (Brantford – Six Nations) is a relationship I’ve worked hard to strengthen for decades so naturally I was frustrated that my integrity was unfairly questioned.”
Friel declined to be interviewed about the meeting and his statement because he said that, at the outset of the August meeting, everyone there agreed that the discussion and any related documents would be held in confidence.
“I am very disappointed to learn that communications related to this meeting have been made public,” Friel said. “In respect of that agreement, I won’t go into any detail about our discussion except to express that, in the spirit of collaboration, I went into this meeting with good intentions.”
In an email to city councillors, Friel said that another member of council should be part of the mediation process going forward and has suggested he be replaced by Ward 4 Coun. Cheryl Antoski. As well, Friel said that he is willing to step away from any voting on the matters to ensure that there remains integrity in the process.
Six Nations elected Chief Ava Hill said the incident has strained relations between her community and the city.
“Mayor Friel’s actions were very disturbing,” Hill said in an Aug. 17 letter sent to Brantford city councillors.
“My councillors and staff were deeply offended to be subject to such a display of disrespect and unprofessionalism from an elected officer of the City of Brantford.
“The mayor’s actions will certainly
put a strain on the relationship between the city and Six Nations with respect to any further discussions on any issue.”
Hill did not return phone calls from The Expositor seeking comment for this story.
Brant Mayor Ron Eddy said that the meeting continued after Friel left because “the rest of us felt it was important to try to find an agreement.”
He said he is looking forward to a second meeting that is being arranged by Bryant.
“We need to have that meeting,” he told Expositor reporter Michael-Allan Marion.
“If an agreement can be reached, we have to find it. I’m into moving forward.”
Friel, in his e-mail to city councillors, said the August meeting was the result of request from Hill directly to the premier for mediation over the boundary issue. The meeting, according to Friel’s e-mail, was to involve the heads of councils to determine if a mediated process was needed and how it would be presented to each of the three councils.
Six Nations was represented by Hill, as well as councillors Bob Johnson, Carl Hill, Terry General and Lonny Bomberry, director of lands and resources, and Monture. Brant was represented by Eddy and CAO Paul Emerson, while the city was represented by Friel, CAO Darryl Lee and city solicitor Heidi DeVries.
According to Hill’s letter, Friel and Monture “expressed differing opinions of the 1997 agreement for services in the northwest of the city.”
At that point, the meeting deteriorated.
“After a bit of a debate and heated words,” Hill’s letter states, “Phil Monture did say to Mayor Friel, ‘That is why I don’t trust you.’ Friel became “very” agitated, raised his voice, yelled at Phil and stood up as if to leave the room,” according to Hill’s letter. “As he was leaving the room, he (Friel) said, ‘F... you, Phil,’” the letter states.
Friel returned a few minutes later, packed his briefcase and left the meeting saying, “Good luck.”
But Friel, in his e-mail sent to councillors, defended his record on Indigenous issues. “After 23 years (16 as mayor) of being one of the most vocal advocates for Indigenous issues, I was floored by such a rude and uncalled for comment,” Friel said. “I consider that comment to go to the very heart of my personal integrity, and I replied to Phil Monture in frustration “F--- you, Phil” and left the meeting.
“I contacted Michael Bryant the next day via email and said, in light of Six Nations comments that ‘they don’t trust me,’ that it would be appropriate for me to leave the mediation.”
Friel also said that he tried to call Hill twice the next day but received no return phone calls.
“Chief Hill’s attempt here to politically embarrass me leads me to believe that this mediation has more to do with Six Nations politics rather than trying to advance a true partnership,” Friel said in his e-mail to councillors.
The mayor also said in his email that, in December 2015, he met with Hill in his office to lay out the boundary program the city was working toward, seeking partnerships with Six Nations.
“Chief Hill never chose to take us up on the offer,” Friel said.
The mayor said he is removing himself from the mediation process because of the importance of the relationship between the city and Six Nations.
“Perhaps fresh views will soften Six Nations positions and move
them toward a program of partnership,” Friel said.
“I remain committed personally to supporting Indigenous issues, I will always be a vocal advocate, but I can’t be involved in a process in which my involvement will be a detriment.”
Friel is facing no disciplinary action, sanction or censure as a result of his use of profanity at the meeting, a spokesperson for the city said in response to a question from The Expositor.
My councillors and staff were deeply offended to be subject to such as display of disrespect and unprofessionalism from an elected officer of the City of Brantford.” Six Natrions elected Chief Ava Hill