The local council received legal advice, they had to authorize the speaker who started an anti-LGBTQ+ rant: the mayor

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The Township of Norwich sought legal advice before allowing a man accused of flying community pride flags to speak for almost half an hour at a council meeting where he compared the pride movement to Nazi Germany, the mayor said.

After initially rejecting Jake Dey’s request to address the council, politicians in rural east London spoke to a legal expert to see if he could speak out against the Pride Progress flags on display in the township, Norwich Mayor Larry Martin said.

“The legal notice told us we couldn’t stop him from coming, but we can only say he can’t discuss the incident that has already happened,” said Martin, who is also Oxford County manager.

“We have an obligation to let people in if people want to come and delegate to the board, we can’t say no. But just because we let them come in and talk doesn’t mean we approve of what they’re saying.”

Oxford OPP charged Dey, 47, of Tillsonburg this month with theft under $5,000 after several Pride flags were stolen or vandalized for several days in late May in Norwich, a community in Norwich Township. A 16-year-old from Norwich is also facing theft charges

The township released a statement Thursday afternoon outlining its reasons for allowing Dey to address the council and the restrictions he placed on him.

The township said it received “continued requests” from Dey to speak at Tuesday’s council meeting and seek legal advice.

“Norwich Council has practices and procedures which provide very simple and minimum requirements for providing delegation to a council meeting, in the interest of remaining easily accessible to residents,” the statement said.

The township said Dey was allowed to speak with the following restrictions:

The township said it was aware that Dey’s presentation “has exacerbated community division and in particular that community members have expressed feelings of hurt and insecurity”.

“Council also acknowledges that the delegation that took place, went overtime and included what many consider to be hateful comments. Given the situation and the presence of many residents at the meeting, every effort has been made. been deployed to assess and respond in a way that would not even further escalate the emotions and potential confrontations at the meeting,” the statement read.

Dey’s LGBTQ+ advocates and supporters were among the 100 people who attended the council meeting. Many left the meeting furious after Dey spoke for almost half an hour about his beliefs about pride and the LGBTQ+ community.

Dey, who was given 10 minutes, repeatedly quoted the Bible and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and compared pride to Nazi Germany in what he called a social movement, revealed the audio obtained by The Free Press.

It was “an extreme example of what a movement can do when we get carried away by emotions,” he told the council after describing the rise of the Nazi Party and a movement that led to the Holocaust, the systematic murder by the Nazis during World War II of six million Jews and other enemies of the regime in Europe.

He added: “if we let this continue, it will be the destruction of this nation from within…this is a movement that does not belong to any of these protected minorities”.

Pride is the celebration of equality and inclusivity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, whose expression is usually marked by special events in June.

Dey’s delegation drew a storm of criticism, but Norwich Township Council was in a tough spot when it asked to speak, said Andrew Sancton, a political scientist and former head of the local government program at the Western University.

“It would be difficult or dangerous for the board to start saying you can’t address a matter that the board was deliberating on,” he said. “Once he got going…then it would have been wise for the mayor to say, ‘We’ve heard enough about this, it’s inappropriate.'”

Sancton said it would be “unrealistic” to expect municipalities to check the political views of those delegating, but it would be a different story if they knew, in advance, if Dey had such views. convictions.

Tami Murray, head of the Oxford County Pride Committee, said Norwich Township should be held accountable for allowing Dey to speak for as long as he did and for also allowing him to say a prayer in a government building.

Members of Oxford Pride and “many members of the 2SLGBTQA community sat in the room, and none of them chose to pray. It was forced on them,” she said Thursday.

2SLGBTQA stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning.

Many left the room in tears, Murray added. “What he said was very traumatic. It’s not OK and it should have been stopped.”

She added that many had “significant concerns” about diversity, inclusion and equity in Norwich and planned to file a formal complaint with Oxford County over Dey’s presentation.

Martin said he had never experienced anything like Tuesday’s meeting in 40 years as a politician.

“I’ve been involved in politics since 1982 and that’s a first. It was new territory… What we’re going to have to do is maybe consider tightening up our rules of procedure and maybe have to stipulate what can and can it is not said,” he said.

“I am very deeply saddened by what happened and I will do my best to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Councilor Lynne DePlancke said she was aware of Dey’s presentation and how the council responded to it upset some residents.

“I would like to personally apologize to anyone offended by the delegation,” she said on Thursday. “He should have been held to the 10-minute limit,” she said, citing the bylaw. “For this error, the council, I am sure, will be held accountable.”

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Twitter.com/CalviatLFPress

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, London Free Press

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