EMBRUN – The decision to consider removing question period from Russell Township Council meetings has apparently struck a nerve with several residents, and this has led to the distribution of materials (a flyer) throughout the community. The flyer refers to the proposed amendments to Council’s Procedural By-law #2021-127.

The existence of these materials was addressed directly through a media release from Council and administration on Thur., Feb. 22, 2024, stating that “The Russell Township Council and administration are aware of materials being distributed in our community that do not fully represent the complexities or the intent behind the proposed amendments to Council’s Procedural By-law #2021-127.”

The release goes on to clarify that no final decision has been made regarding changes to the public’s ability to ask questions during open meetings.

“Contrary to what the flyer implies, we remain committed to answering questions from our residents. Russell Township administration is actively exploring ways to refine public engagement and strengthen public participation, ensuring it is efficient, respectful, and productive for all involved.”

The release goes on to support further discussions from all parties, but that these discussions must take place in a climate of factual information and civil participation, free from misinformation and undue alarm.

Residents were encouraged to attend meetings, review agendas, and engage with the local government process, including interaction with Council members and staff through various means, including email, phone, and in-person meetings, as well as through delegations, written communications, and special meetings as necessary.

While they are open and willing to listen to feedback and open discussions with Township residents in the proper forum, there is an expectation that a certain decorum must be followed.

Further Council and staff interactions are scheduled at the upcoming Council meeting on Feb. 26, where further dialogue on this issue is expected to take place. “We expect that during this process all those present will conduct themselves with the civility and mutual respect that is foundational to productive public discourse all the while ensuring a safe workplace free from violence and/or harassment to Council members and staff as per the Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

To view the release in its entirety, you can find it at the Township website in the news and notices section.