Witless Bay critic won't be silenced by town talk of hiring lawyer

A Witless Bay resident says the town's decision to consider hiring a criminal lawyer to review online accusations won't prevent her from speaking up.

Town council voted to consider hiring lawyer to review social media accusations

The town of Witless Bay, south of St. John's, is getting legal advice about social media criticism by some residents. (CBC)

A Witless Bay resident says the town's recent decision to hire a criminal lawyer to review online accusations won't prevent her from speaking up.

"I'm very concerned about that motion that was made Feb. 13," Lorna Yard told CBC News. "Personally, I don't think it's worth the paper it's written on."

I'm hopeful that people are finally just going to say that this is enough.- Lorna Yard

Town council unanimously approved the motion, brought forward by councillors Neil Stratton and Chris Brinston, to retain an "independent criminal lawyer to review recent social media accusations against current town council or councillors to empower the finance committee to take disciplinary actions."

What concerns Yard, she said, is the mindset behind the motion.

"That's designed for one reason and one reason only: to intimidate people," she said.

Yard said she believes the motion is in response to a lawsuit she brought to the Supreme Court in 2017, where a judge ruled that then-deputy mayor Fraser Paul had faked the residency requirements to serve on council.

Paul was forced to step down, but he ran in the municipal election a few months later, and was acclaimed as councillor.

Yard said there were no consequences for the faked residency and she has continued to speak out. 

"They're doing things that people in the town don't agree with, and they feel they're above the law," she said. "So they're just going to do whatever they want, in their mind, to intimidate people, and then just carry on."

Requests for comment from the town and Mayor René Estrada were not returned.

Won't stop her from speaking out

Yard said she was disappointed by the lack of interest in the municipal election but she hopes people will be less apathetic, if council hires a lawyer to challenge the critics. 

"They've just stayed away from municipal politics because it's always been so problematic here," she said.

"I think that they may have done us a favour with this motion. I'm hopeful that people are finally just going to say that this is enough. We have to get together, we have to start doing things right. This town deserves better."

Yard said the motion won't silence her.

"I've seen the inside of a courtroom with the town of Witless Bay before, and I'm certainly not afraid to go back there again."

With files from Mark Quinn