New Brunswick

Investigation starts after Moncton councillor lashes out at activist, telling her to 'seek counselling'

A Moncton city councillor's social media posts last week lashing out at an activist and telling her to seek counselling after she questioned how politicians make decisions have triggered a municipal code of conduct investigation.

Code of conduct probe into Facebook posts by Coun. Pierre Boudreau

Moncton Coun. Pierre Boudreau on Facebook lashed out at an activist who was critical of how politicians make decisions. (Shane Magee/CBC)

A Moncton city councillor's social media posts last week lashing out at an activist and telling her to seek counselling after she questioned how politicians make decisions have triggered a municipal code of conduct investigation.

Coun. Pierre Boudreau appeared to threaten Hafsah Mohammad with Grassroots NB in public comments on Facebook after she criticized how politicians make decisions based on emotions and personal experience rather than evidence.

"My dear, you are so of shit as to be dangerous!" Boudreau wrote the afternoon of March 16.

Mohammad replied saying it was "wild" the comment had come from a councillor.

"You asked for it. Take it with humility!" Boudreau responded, adding "You want to pick a fight with me. Get ready!"

Mohammad asked what she should get ready for. 

"No need to worry . Like I said, the game is over and I won! Your really need to seek counselling...." Boudreau wrote.

Boudreau lashed out at Hafsah Mohammad of Grassroots NB in several comments last week. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"l felt really scared, I thought it was a joke," Mohammad said in an interview with CBC News. 

She said the sentiment is similar to messages she's received privately while advocating for halting a new RCMP building or redirecting spending on police. 

"I'm not the first marginalized or racialized person to experience violence at the hands of those who maintain this colonial apparatus," Mohammad said. 

"This is not unusual."

Apology blames stress, depression

Boudreau edited the posts several hours later to hide the original comments, but didn't delete them, and blocked Mohammad.

About 24 hours later, he posted an apology to her on his page that she couldn't see because she was blocked.

"I was extremely stressed out yesterday and quite literally depressed. I guess it happens to most people. I should not have engaged in any Facebook commentaries."

"I trust most will be capable of forgiving me as it is certainly not my habit of being disrespectful to anyone in any way."

The apology was no longer visible on his page as of Friday morning. Because Boudreau blocked her, Mohammad learned of the apology when others sent it to her.

Boudreau did not provide an interview, but issued a statement reiterating the apology. 

"Instead of allowing Ms. Mohammad to speak her mind, I engaged in an extremely disrespectful manner and attacked her for challenging me," Boudreau said. 

"As an elected official, my behaviour was completely unacceptable. I am ashamed and I am deeply sorry for any stress I may have caused her and any other individual who read my comments."

A screenshot shows the original post by Coun. Pierre Boudreau followed by an edit made that attempted to remove it. (CBC)

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold called Boudreau's posts "unacceptable" in a statement to CBC News.

Moncton's code of conduct for city councillors says they must treat every person with dignity, understanding and respect to ensure the work environment is free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

"No member [of council] shall use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward any other member, city administration or any member of the public," the bylaw states.

It also bars use of social media to post offensive, disrespectful or harassing comments.

Moncton councillors must obey a code of conduct that prohibits members from posting offensive, disrespectful or harassing comments on social media. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"The comments have been reviewed and are being taken very seriously," Arnold said.

"Having said this, this matter is a reported violation of the code of conduct and an investigation will be undertaken immediately."

Arnold said if the investigation finds the code was breached, city council may take "corrective actions."

Sanctions can include a reprimand letter, demanding a public apology, removal from committees, reduction or suspension of pay and restrictions on access to city facilities or documents. 

Mohammad isn't calling for Boudreau to resign, or face sanctions outlined in the bylaw.

Instead, she said a forum should be held with women of all backgrounds to discuss misogyny, white supremacy and ableism in institutions that when called out can lead to violent responses.

Exchange followed post supporting new RCMP station

The exchange began March 16 when Boudreau posted about his support for building a new $46-million RCMP station in Moncton.

Mohammad has spoken over the last year at several public meetings questioning the need for a new building and urging the city to redirect police spending to other areas.

Boudreau posted that he supports the new building because he spent time shadowing Moncton police officers for a summer as a law school student in 1974, working with Cpl. Aurele Bourgeois and Const. Michael O'Leary who were later kidnapped and killed. 

"I experienced and grew to appreciate a valiant workforce of police officers working out of a police station that was dismally inadequate and very far from meeting the requirements of an effective police force," Boudreau wrote of the station that existed before the current station on Main Street.

Moncton has purchased and prepared land on Albert Street for a future RCMP station to replace an older building on Main Street. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

He said the current station doesn't meet requirements of Codiac Regional RCMP. 

"The newly proposed facility is way overdue and should be supported by citizens who understand the vital importance of essential police protection in our tri-community. God bless our police force!" Boudreau wrote. 

Mohammad responded to that post, saying it was an example of how it's problematic when politicians make decisions based on "sentimental, almost romantic ideologies premised on feelings towards public services that don't affect them personally."

"The police aren't policing this councillor; the people 'liking' and commenting on this post are not likely being policed by the RCMP. The *memories* this councillor is citing are decades old, and are not based on modern evidence of police effectiveness."

Won't seek re-election

Boudreau was first elected to council in 1989 and served five terms. In early 2020, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election in the May 2020 municipal election.

However, when the province delayed that election because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boudreau told the Times & Transcript newspaper he was reconsidering that decision.

On Wednesday evening following the apology post, Boudreau issued a statement saying he won't seek re-election in the vote now set for May 10.