‘Consider the human cost’ writes BIM CAO Kathy Lalonde in open letter to Bowen Islanders

'Since my return, I have been subjected to an escalating level of verbal aggression, personal attacks and other humiliating actions. I have been verbally abused and threatened at municipal hall. I have been spat upon on my way to work. I have been subjected to written abuse on social media,' writes Lalonde.

Open letter to the Bowen Island Community:

I am writing this letter to express my concern about the personalization of the dispute between BIM and the volunteer fire department membership. Specifically, the impact it is having on municipal staff. Many staff are facing varying degrees of anger or verbal abuse in the community. I want to be clear that this is not being undertaken by the volunteer firefighters but other community members. 

It is not my place to speak to the stories of other staff; I can only tell you my story. 

On July 21, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and we were told he had six months to live without treatment. Since that time, we have gone through a nightmare of numerous inconclusive biopsies, hospital stays and differing diagnoses. Three weeks ago, he began treatment for a rare lung condition in the hopes that it would help. His health continues to deteriorate. 

I returned to the office on Monday, Sept. 30. 

Since my return, I have been subjected to an escalating level of verbal aggression, personal attacks and other humiliating actions. I have been verbally abused and threatened at municipal hall. I have been spat upon on my way to work. I have been subjected to written abuse on social media. I am experiencing an old-fashioned shunning by some members of this community. 

I tell you this so you can understand the human cost of this systematic personalized harassment. Perhaps I could have endured it better without my husband’s ill health, but I am shattered. 

I do not want this to happen to anyone else. I am concerned for the emotional and mental wellbeing of our staff, volunteer firefighters and council members. I am troubled by the toxicity, the personal attacks and lack of respectful dialogue in the community. 

I have confidence that the volunteer firefighters dispute will be dealt with through an equitable and transparent process, agreeable to all parties. 

I have faith that the behaviour of a few does not represent the broader community. 

I know Bowen Island is a respectful, compassionate and loving community. During this challenging time, please show kindness and respect to all parties involved. Consider the human cost. 

––Kathy Lalonde

Chief Administrative Officer

Bowen Island Municipality

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