Heated passions over a planned new Gateway sign last week may have spilled over into full-blown harassment, as Tourism and Economic Development director Jackie Challis told Inuvik Town council she was subject to several verbal attacks both online and in person.
Social media in Inuvik exploded following a July 4 CBC article where Inuvik-born artist Ron English criticized the town’s decision to outsource the Gateway Sign design to Fathom Studio, a Nova Scotia based firm.
Challis mentioned the abuse during a July 13 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“It did turn personal,” she said. “Everything from social media, to on the street, to in the grocery store, to people yelling things as the truck goes by, to online petitions to have me let go.
“The people whose opinions I care about are the people in this community. I work hard to try and do the best that I can for the residents and artists living in the Beaufort Delta and Inuvik, and I have from the beginning. It shouldn’t be personal, it shouldn’t be about me. It’s about us as an organization.
“The ironic part is my name is attached to the sign, but if you actually look at the work being done, there’s other departments doing quite a bit of work towards this.”
Senior Administrative Officer Grant Hood said he was proud of the work Challis and other town staff did with the sign and said she did her due diligence and added the public was not meeting the town halfway with its efforts to communicate.
“I need to emphasize the number of times where the public had the opportunity to have input,” he said. “I fully support what director Challis has done and the effort she’s put in on this. I agree 100 per cent it’s unfair the way she’s been treated.
“If people do have issues, then contact me. That’s what I’m here for.”
Town Council stands by Challis
Calling the treatment put towards Challis “shameful,” councillors voiced their support for her and her work.
“Director Challis should not be taking ownership of this at all,” said deputy mayor Paul MacDonald. “It is a council decision. We directed (her) to move forward with this. Although there were some councillors that weren’t totally in favour of it, we as a group made a decision.
“There should be no negative comments towards her. They should come towards the councillors and Mayor and we move from there. That is not fair for her or her department or her staff or other staff in the Inuvik Town Office to take any heat from us.”
Coun. Ray Solotki said the town needs to examine how it communicates with residents and the types of messages it is presenting, as the backlash showed there was a significant amount of people who were unhappy with the direction the town is going.
“There are a lot of upset people and we are here as representation of the town,” she said. “Instead of just saying, ‘Okay, Jackie did a great job’ — (which I do think, but) there are people who are upset, so it’s time we look at ‘what are we missing?’ I think all of us have had a lot of different comments from both sides, but I really think we need to look forward as to how we fix this so it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Noting that for all the commentary online town council had received only one letter in regards to the sign, Coun. Steve Baryluk said residents who chose to voice their opinions on social media and not using proper channels to communicate with the town.
“Treatment of town staff was completely unacceptable and frankly shameful,” he said. “I don’t govern based on social media comments.”
There is a lot of work the town has to do to communicate with the residents.
Big things like this should be posted everywhere so people can see and come voice it.
This is a big deal and people are upset because they aren’t doing enough to reach out to them.
There are a few things the town isn’t doing for their residents I seen a comment the bars are open but they can’t play bingo?
Town always talks about being like down south yet we don’t even have an online registry for lotto licences ?
They can be reviewed by the committee and get things happening in Inuvik.
Work a little harder for the residents and there won’t be so much backlash.
Listen and see what we won’t
There’s a bylaw for ATV’s but no where for them to go?
Give them a place to go
These are just some of the things I’m hearing and know of.
Listen to the people work for the people.
It’s there town not your to run
Good Job Jackie Challis, 100% think so, you did your due diligence and did what council directed you to do!
people that attack you both personally and in business are certainly in the dark and have nothing better to do so they do what they do just to say they disagreed!!
keep up the good work Jackie
Everyone getting up set with this sign acting righteous but if u ask one person that’s up set if they ever go to a town council meeting they will say no. So if anyone really cared about what was going on in this town they would show up to town council meets and voice their opinions but they don’t and they won’t because even after all of the bitching they still won’t show up to town council meets….. and u can print this with my name on it