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Facebook, editorial create come home year controversy

It appears a little hell has been raised in St. Anthony, but everybody seems now ready to move on with the upcoming come home year celebrations.

Plans for the celebration have been ongoing for quite some time, with the list of entertainers and events slowly being revealed as details get ironed out. A requested deadline for registration was March 16, and shortly afterwards the major attraction for the event was announced — Trooper was coming to town.

When word spread there was criticism from those who had not previously registered and were now unable to go see the legendary rock band. The committee’s Facebook page and office was inundated with comments, something which chair Marilyn Walker responded to publicly.

“First of all I make no apology for what I am about to say,” her Facebook post, according to town resident Tim Clark, began. “I have taken just about all of the abuse I am going to take for one day.”

Clarke, a free-lance journalist and writer/editor of the website, took exception to the tone and comments of the post which followed. He wrote an email letter to Walker, the deputy mayor of St. Anthony, and the town, asking for the comments to be rescinded and an apology given. He also wrote an editorial on his website.

“If you were unsure that you would be able to obtain time (off) work for this event, or whatever other reason you may have had — you should have paid your measly 20 bucks and secured your spot,” the Facebook post by Walker stated. “But no ... you decided to wait until everything was completed and bitch after.”

Walker posted the decision to allow no more registrants is final. She also said the committee has been working hard to bring the town one of its best events ever.

“ ... and if you feel that this is not good enough for you ... then I would like to advise you that there is always room for improvement, and our meetings are every Thursday night at the council chamber starting at 7 p.m. (the door is always open), but don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out either.”

Clarke said an elected official, and a volunteer of such an event, should not speak to or about people in the manner she did.

“To use crass language and slurs towards prospective visitors to this town whether they are local or not is inexcusable,” Clarke wrote in an editorial on his website last week. “I am calling in this open letter for a formal apology and a realization that people will not buy unless they are sure what they are going to get.”

There has not been an apology, and what Clarke did receive was a visit from local RCMP officers. Walker filed a complaint with police claiming “defamatory libel” against him and his website service, he said.

Tuesday, Cpl. Eric Humber said the complainant, Walker, requested the RCMP record the incident for information purposes only, and did not seek charges. He said the file has been concluded.

Miffed by complaint

However, Clarke said the situation was unsettling for him and his family. He was surprised to see the officers at his door, but also miffed by the complaint under what he considers a seldomly pursued or enforced section of the criminal code pertaining to defamation.

“They have back pedalled a little bit, in my opinion, but I don’t know why,” he said. “I think they realized it was a waste of their time. What I said was in normal discourse over a municipal leader. I never did anything that would arise to a personal attack, other than to say the comments were inappropriate and should be rescinded, and an apology made.”

While he considers the issue over, he said that request still stands.

Meanwhile, Walker declined comment on the situation when contacted Tuesday.

“I’m not even going there,” she said. “We have 3,600 people registered for come home year, and he is the only one that has a problem. We will leave it at that.”

St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms said the matter is not a council concern. He said council is supportive of Walker in her role as committee chair and the effort she and the others have given.

He said the incident does not tarnish the July event.

“None whatsoever,” he said. “In fact, the publicity might do us a world of good.”

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