Fredericton council says cabinet minister's tweets went too far

·2 min read
Education Minister Dominic Cardy shouldn't have commented publicly about police response to planned protest, council says. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Education Minister Dominic Cardy shouldn't have commented publicly about police response to planned protest, council says. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

Fredericton City Council says the education minister's comments went too far last weekend when he criticized the Fredericton Police Force for its response to a planned anti-lockdown protest.

Councillors voted Monday night to direct the mayor to send a letter to the province asking that "in the future, members of cabinet do not attempt to unduly impact policing decisions or inadvertently raise profile or risk levels for our citizens and police."

Mayor Kate Rogers said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy's comments had a negative impact.

"Anyone who followed the incident and social media around it and comments that were being made, I think it was very clear that it did further inflame the incident," Rogers said.

Rogers pointed out that another protest in Moncton didn't receive nearly as much attention.

"So one has to wonder," she said.

Over the weekend police said about 400 people rallied at City Hall in the city's downtown to protest the COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Cardy's social media posts started on Thursday and continued on Friday. He asked why police were allowing an "illegal" protest under the lockdown, which prohibits gatherings.

Fredericton Police Chief Roger Brown said Cardy spoke with the deputy police chief, Martin Gaudet, on Friday morning about the planned protest. Brown said Cardy wanted to "express his viewpoint" on what the police should do.

"And that's a very slippery slope," said Brown.

"We have the sole responsibility to answer the law, not to elected officials. And you know, that's something that is not helpful in any way, shape or form."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

Brown said Cardy's comments raised the profile of the event, garnering even more attention and drawing a bigger crowd.

"At the event itself — and we had lots of police officers on scene, as you saw — there were people there who clearly stated that they were there at the request of Minister Cardy to protest the protesters."

Two people were arrested at the protest on Saturday and several tickets were issued to organizers and participants at the rally for violating the Emergency Measures Act, according to police.

"It is a big task to contain a protest during a pandemic and that work alone is enough and it doesn't need to be fuelled and inflamed by anyone," said Rogers. "And we would particularly ask our partners at the province to respect that."

Brown said he was disappointed in Cardy's comments.

"In my policing career I've often been held to account for whether it be the actions of the entire police force or myself. And in this particular case, I think elected officials also need to be held to account for their roles."

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