On October 18, 2023, The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) announced that Lynda di Armani (my wife) sued the Chilliwack School Board for censoring her repeatedly at School Board meetings. She’s not the only one.
School Board Chair Willow Reichelt is well known for her speed in cutting the microphone feed for anyone who dares utter a syllable she disagrees with – a luxury her position as chair does not permit her under BC’s School Act.
So far, that hasn’t stopped Reichelt’s rude and censorious behavior to parents, grandparents, other trustees but, with a little help from the JCCF, perhaps a judge will finally tighten the leash on her censor button.
Please support Lynda di Armani’s lawsuit against the Chilliwack School Board by donating generously to the JCCF, a non-profit organization whose mission is “To defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education.”
The JCCF Press Release is republished below, as is Isaac Lamoureux’s October 20th story about this case on True North.
On June 13, 2023, Ms. di Armani, a former school employee and grandmother, attended the meeting of the Board to express her concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving an elected Board member. She began by saying that Trustee Teri Westerby had brought forward a motion that the Board support the Pride Month of June and raise a pole to fly the Pride flag. As Ms. di Armani began to point out that Teri Westerby was also the director of marketing for the local Pride society, she was interrupted by the Chair, Willow Reichelt, in conjunction with Vice-Chair Carin Bondar claiming that Ms. di Armani’s remarks were “discriminatory” to a Board member.
Chairman Reichelt also told Ms. di Armani that Trustee’s names are not to be used during meetings and that there could be no conflict of interest because there was “no pecuniary interest.” Chairman Reichelt further stated, “when you are talking about a human right, there is no conflict of interest.” Over the course of the next two minutes, Ms. di Armani was interrupted four times and had her microphone cut off. At times, the audio for the entire meeting was muted, and there is simply silence on the public record. A full-length video of the proceedings, including the muted segments, is available on the School District’s YouTube Channel.
In addition to this violation of her own Charter-protected freedom of expression, Ms. di Armani also objects to the School Board’s policy of not allowing members of the public to make their own recordings of these public meetings. As she entered the meeting, she was required to sign an undertaking stating she would not record anything. With the School Board controlling the only recording of the meeting, and choosing to mute the recording, Ms. di Armani alleges that the School Board is violating the Charter-protected right of other people to hear, listen, and consider alternative viewpoints.
The Board was created by British Columbia’s School Act, which requires the Board to hold public meetings and to create bylaws to regulate those meetings. While the Chair is authorized to cut off the remarks of speakers who don’t comply with their bylaw, the Chair is not allowed to silence people simply because the Chair disagrees with what someone is saying.
Ms. di Armani seeks a court declaration that the Board exceeded its authority and infringed on her Charter Rights. She is also asking for Court Orders that would prevent the Board from acting in a similar censorious manner in the future, and that would allow members of the public to make their own recordings of these public meetings.
“Elected officials exercising government power must respect Canadians’ Charter freedoms,” states Marty Moore, counsel for Ms. di Armani. “The Chilliwack School Board’s actions in this case show complete disregard for the freedom of expression, not only of my client, but also of the listening public, who have a right to hear the views of others at Board meetings. Unfortunately, this kind of censorship is a regular occurrence at Chilliwack School Board meetings. We will be seeking Court orders to put an end to these violations of Charter rights and freedoms.”
Chilliwack Board of School Trustees faces legal action over freedom of expression concerns
A grandmother is suing a B.C. school board she says violated her rights by shutting her down at a public meeting.
Lynda Di Armani is taking the Chilliwack Board of School Trustees to court after being interrupted and having her microphone cut off when she attempted to raise attention to a conflict of interest she said one of the board members had.
Di Armani, a grandmother and former school employee, began her time in the meeting by saying that trustee Teri Westerby had brought forward a motion about flying a pride flag during pride month, despite being the director of marketing for the local pride society.
Board chair Willow Rechelt and vice-chair Carin Bondar interrupted Di Armani and claimed her statements were “discriminatory.”
Di Armani was interrupted several times and her microphone was cut off, before she was eventually told to sit down before she had finished speaking, according to video of the meeting.
Di Armani alleges in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) that the board’s treatment of her violated her Charter right to freedom of expression.
“Elected officials exercising government power must respect Canadians’ Charter freedoms. The Chilliwack School Board’s actions show a disregard for not only my client’s freedom of expression but also for the listening public, who have a right to hear diverse views at Board meetings,” said Marty Moore, Di Armani’s lawyer.
The allegation has not been proven in court and the Chilliwack school board did not respond to a request for comment from True North.
While the chair is authorized to cut off the remarks of speakers who don’t comply with their bylaw, the chair is not allowed to silence people simply because of disagreement with what they are saying, the JCCF says.
Di Armani is petitioning the court for a declaration that the board overstepped its bounds and violated her Charter rights. Additionally, she is seeking court orders to prevent similar behaviours in the future and to permit the public to record these meetings on their own devices.
Upon entry, Di Armani alleges she was mandated to sign a declaration confirming she would not record the session. This policy, Di Armani contends, means the board retains exclusive control over the meeting’s recordings, potentially allowing for selective muting or editing, thereby infringing upon the public’s right to fully hear, listen, and weigh alternative viewpoints.
NOTE: Lynda spoke with Trustee Heather Maahs at an event today (October 21st), who told her that Reichelt and others berated her repeatedly for Lynda di Armani’s lawsuit, despite the fact that Maahs did not know about the lawsuit or have anything to do with it.