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Open Letter to the Township of Emo

April 5, 2024



Mayor and Council

Township of Emo

P.O. Box 520

Emo, ON  P0W 1E0


Dear Mayor and Council:


Re:      Final Settlement Proposal


In June, our complaint about your bigoted and discriminatory decision to refuse to recognize Pride Month in 2020 will proceed to a full hearing on its merits before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The hearing is scheduled for 5 days. Our legal team will be ready.


Our proceeding at the Tribunal is based in case law that has been settled in Ontario for 30 years. We cautioned you about this at the outset of this saga in May 2020 – after you made your ill-advised decision and we asked you to reconsider. In other words: you face an uphill battle in this hearing, and are likely going to lose and be ordered to pay significant compensation to us and the other complainants for violating the Human Rights Code.


Even if you do win (which is a very remote possibility, and one we would likely seek judicial review of), you cannot recover your legal costs at the Tribunal. We imagine that your lawyers have already told you this. It is unclear why you are not heeding that advice, especially after losing your motion to have our claim against the individual council members dismissed.


Emo taxpayers must understand that you have now spent tens of thousands of dollars of their money on exorbitant legal fees to defend the homophobia and transphobia of Harold McQuaker, Harrold Boven, and Warren Toles. Despite those significant expenditures, it is unclear what has been paid for given the very limited material that has been served on us to-date. All of this is an inexcusable and foolish waste of taxpayer money at a time when your council is also hiking taxes and cutting local services.


Specifically, this is playing out while your council is soliciting public donations to keep the lights on at its public library, including accepting handouts from the local food bank. You’ve also hemorrhaged taxpayer money to pay for other discrimination around the council table — such as the six-figure pay equity sum owing after it was determined that you had been underpaying women on your staff for decades. And if Mr. McQuaker’s comments around the community are to be believed, that isn’t even the only workplace settlement you have had to cough up lately.


One would think that a small municipality with a small tax base that finds itself in a hole like this would stop digging. But here we are, on the eve of Emo being added to the list of homophobic towns in publicly reported Tribunal decisions, and you are still scratching your heads wondering why the municipality can’t entice new medical professionals to live and work there. It is breathtaking that you have not connected the dots between your defence of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ bigotry and its damage to the public image of your community. Your untenable legal position is simply worsening your municipality’s other challenges.


We sympathize with the hard-working members of the community who are watching this car accident in slow motion. That’s why, despite that you have rebuffed all prior efforts to settle on reasonable terms, we want to offer a final off-ramp from this impending national public relations tire fire for your council and community. We are even willing to pitch in to support the municipality in its time of need.

Here’s our proposal:


1. You will agree to the settlement terms extended to you by our legal counsel at Cambridge LLP in March 2022, including the published apology, financial compensation (reduced from what we will seek from the Tribunal), diversity and inclusion training for council, and a commitment to adopt Pride proclamations in the future without stripping out their 2SLGBTQIA+-affirming language.

2. Borderland Pride will donate one-third of the financial compensation paid to us by the municipality directly to the Emo Public Library, on the condition that it host a drag story time event, free to all to attend, on a date of our choosing this year.


3. Borderland Pride will, before the end of 2024, host its next charitable drag event in Emo, the proceeds of which will support the Emo Public Library. The municipality will provide facilities for this event at no charge.


This is a good deal. You should take it. The alternative is to continue to waste taxpayer money fighting a losing battle in defence of bigotry and hate. That path will be embarrassing for your municipality and council, not to mention all of those with ties to your community and who expect better from its leadership.


Look at it this way: can you really demand that your voters pay more in taxes and offer up donations to support basic municipal services while also refusing an offer that could generate revenue and end your litigation bills? If this crusade of yours isn’t really about your prejudice and contempt for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we look forward to your acceptance of our terms, which can be transmitted to our legal counsel at Cambridge LLP.


This offer remains open until May 3, 2024.





Douglas W. Judson (he/him)



C.         R. Douglas Elliott and Timothy Phelan, Cambridge LLP, Via Email


You can download a PDF copy of this letter, as submitted to the municipality, here.



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