News / Calgary

Sutherland apologizes to council, not Farrell, for acting out 'side conversation'

Coun. Druh Farrell has switched seats so that she can continue to work without distractions

Coun. Ward Sutherland.

Elizabeth Cameron/ for Metro

Coun. Ward Sutherland.

The council floor has turned into a game of charades.

Last week, during one of the several land use items on the agenda, a “side conversation” took front and centre stage for councillors and was captured on video.

In the video, Coun. Ward Sutherland can be seen miming what appears to be a tool being turned back and forth before he seems to mimick someone dying. The unfortunate blocking of his performance happens as Coun. Druh Farrell turns her back to address another colleague.

On Friday, Coun. Brian Pincott, who had seen a video of the meeting Farrell was sent via email, filed an Integrity Commissioner complaint on the matter.

On Monday, Coun. Ward Sutherland apologized for his behaviour, but not directly to Farrell.

She’s changed her seating since, switching spaces with Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

“We have serious business to do, and this is incredibly unprofessional, regardless of what was meant by the gesture.” said Farrell. “I have work to do.”

Farrell said its important to talk about systemic behaviour leading up to people feeling uncomfortable, she hopes this incident won’t stop women from running as councillors.

Sutherland has said that his colleague's motive to make the incident public are purely political.  

“If you actually spend some time looking at the video, I was leaning behind her and talking to Andre Chabot, so it was about a side matter, it had nothing to do with Druh. Zero,” said Sutherland.

“You have the right to go and take it to the ethics commissioner, I have no disagreement with it at all… saying that I hate women, or this or that, well it becomes 100 per cent political at that point.”

Farrell said so far she hasn’t heard from Sutherland personally, and she’s not sure what the conversation with Coun. Andre Chabot’s was about. And, she isn’t convinced the motions caught on camera weren’t directed at her.

“There is a pattern of behaviour that has led certain members of council to feel comfortable behaving in this manner in council chambers on camera, that’s unacceptable,” said Farrell. “(It’s a pattern) to women on council.”

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