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Statement of Councillor Rajni Agarwal

Statement on Behalf of a Client

For immediate release: November 21, 2023

The following statement can be attributed to Councillor Rajni Agarwal:


“Last night a majority of Thunder Bay city council agreed with the recommendation of the Integrity Commissioner to suspend my pay for a period of 30 days. I accept council’s decision. I also repeat my apology. I expressed myself poorly in the heat of the moment last June. I regret having done so.


“What I do not apologize for is my motive, at the time, of intervening to address a public safety and accessibility issue that I observed in my neighbourhood. I stand by my actions and words at council about this. I will not be a bystander. I will always support all citizens, including those living with disabilities, seniors, and others with mobility challenges.


“The Integrity Commissioner’s report went to great lengths to paint my actions in the worst possible light, including by using loaded and sexist language to depict me in the trope of an 'irate' and 'overbearing' woman. Their main conclusions could have been reached without doing that. As I stated last night, I took responsibility and acknowledged my lapse in judgment by writing to the Integrity Commissioner on August 14. This was ignored in the report, as were the police occurrence reports, which do not support the Integrity Commissioner’s portrayal of my conduct.


“I am equally troubled that the Integrity Commissioner is now taking the view that councillors who contact by-law officers or police – as any members of the public should do if they have a public safety concern – are inappropriately ordering staff around. That is dangerous and false. I followed the guidance of city staff and deferred to the role and expertise of police to respond to this situation. Documents I provided clearly stated that the complainant was improperly blocking a sidewalk and a fire hydrant. It is unclear to me why this was deemed irrelevant.


“I am also troubled that the investigation by Principles Integrity brought into public view extraneous details about my private affairs that had little to do with the substance of the complaint. As Councillor Giertuga pointed out last night, they got some of these facts wrong and refused to correct them. I feel that this content was included entirely for colour and to prejudice me, knowing I would have limited ability to respond at the council meeting.


“I am disturbed by this first-hand look at the Integrity Commissioner process. I feel that a relatively minor misstep was used to open a costly and far-reaching inquiry that was aimed at heaping public scorn on a member of council and then limiting my opportunity to respond before my peers at council.


“The Chair’s procedural rulings last night also placed all members of council in a very difficult position. While I accept that the only decision council is to make is about whether to sanction the member and what sanction to impose, it is simply not possible to participate in this discussion without commenting on the underlying facts of the report, which the Chair refused to let me do. That is neither fair nor practical, and this was immediately recognized by several members around the table. At all previous appearances by the Integrity Commissioner, members of council were allowed to make full answer to the report.


“I am committed to serving the people of Thunder Bay and would like to move forward. As we approach the holiday season, I would suggest that the pay withheld from me be donated to a local charity at this time of need, such as United Way, Christmas Cheer, Our Kids Count, or Grace Place. I have no further comments at this time.”


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Contact:

Douglas W. Judson

Judson Howie LLP

Email: doug@judsonhowie.ca

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