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Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle resigns

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick Archives The Canadian Press France Bélisle is resigning from her position as mayor to “preserve her health” and her “integrity,” she says.

The mayor of Gatineau, France Bélisle, resigns to “preserve her health” and her “integrity”, leaving a political context that she describes as “hostile”. Municipal councilor Daniel Champagne will take over.

“I wondered a lot about the price to pay to accomplish this demanding work in a context, let’s say it, which is often hostile,” she declared Thursday at a press conference, struggling to hold back tears. “This resignation is the result of a political system which is deployed in a social environment where we have unfortunately become actors and witnesses of public intimidation against which we do not rebel. »

“Many reasons push an elected official to leave,” she added, citing in particular “disillusionment, intimidation, insufficient resources”, or even “intense pressure”. The elected official also declared having received “death threats from certain members of the public”. She also does not want her “name to be associated” with decisions that she sees “unfortunately […] looming on the horizon”.

Taking as an example the sick leave of her counterparts in Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke, as well as the discomfort of the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, last December, Ms. Bélisle declared that she wanted to “preserve her health for the future, because political life mortgages us.”

One in ten municipal officials has left

Since the municipal elections of September 2021, nearly one in ten elected officials have left their position, according to Élections Québec. This “exodus” of 741 politicians, “unheard of in the province”, raises too “few substantive questions”, deplores Ms. Bélisle, calling on the Quebec government to undertake “rapidly an analysis”. ” It's urgent […]. If we want a replacement for the public service, we must restore its letters of nobility. Otherwise, who’s going to put their face on a sign ? »

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“By speaking today, France Bélisle courageously launches a call for collective reflection to which we have an obligation, as a society, to respond,” responded the Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ) in a press release. . “Cases of harassment and intimidation towards and between municipal officials continue to increase. »

As she finished a tour in the Village sector to meet her merchants, Valérie Plante reacted “hotly” to the resignation of her “valuable colleague”, with whom she worked in particular on the issue of homelessness. “France is part of the new generation of mayors too, so that also leads me to wonder about… I only hope that it’s nothing, that she is in health and then that she is doing well.” , she added, confirming that “the social climate is not easy”.


Ms. Bélisle caused a reaction last September, by affirming that she was doing the “job” of the Quebec Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, on the issue of homelessness. A statement described as “unfair” by the CAQ.

Prime Minister François Legault still wished France Bélisle “the best for the future”, thanking her for “her years of service”.

For her part, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, affirmed that the government had taken steps to help municipal elected officials and that it was now up to municipal councils to act. “Our government is doing its part to support elected officials in their positions. Now, it is important that certain changes take place from within the councils with sincere will and for the benefit of citizens. In the end, they are the ones who pay the price,” she wrote on the X network.

In 2021, Quebec introduced 11 measures to counter online intimidation and harassment of municipal elected officials, including training for elected officials and an advertising campaign. And last June, insurance coverage specific to situations of harassment, intimidation and violence suffered by elected officials and municipal employees was set up to finance legal actions brought by victims. This program had a budget of $2 million.

The mayor of Granby, Julie Bourdon, believes that the resignation of France Bélisle and those of many other municipal elected officials before her demonstrate that the measures in place are not enough. Within the UMQ, Ms. Bourdon chairs a committee on municipal democracy which plans, starting next week, to propose concrete measures to support elected officials. “We must promote the role of elected officials,” believes Mayor Bourdon.

“There are elected officials who are isolated, in distress, who are experiencing difficult situations. I think that collectively, we need to see what more we can do. […] We have seen the case of citizens who went to knock on mayors to say stupid things to them. We’ve reached where ?,” she says, while insisting that in many municipalities the situation is not as tense. Still, municipal elected officials are faced with new issues such as homelessness, climate change, floods and forest fires which are likely to create tensions in their communities, she emphasizes.

With Jeanne Corriveau

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116