Windsor activist Edy Haddad allowed back at city hall
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After nearly four years, the City of Windsor has lifted a ban preventing activist Edy Haddad from entering city hall or other municipal buildings.
"There's nothing like freedom on Earth. It's the greatest feeling I've ever felt," Haddad told Metro.
A longtime political activist with a penchant for the dramatic, Haddad was banned on March 5, 2009 after giving a speech critical of various councillors. He often tried to attend council meetings afterwards — once even donning a veil "to represent the fact the I'm being hidden" — but was routinely removed by police.
In addition to being barred from council meetings, Haddad claimed the ban prevented him from accessing municipal services.
"I wasn't able to get a health card," he said. "I couldn't get access to basic services."
After unsuccessfully trying to appeal, Haddad contacted the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. After reviewing his case, the CCLA penned a letter to Windsor's Chief Administrative Officer asking her office to rescind the ban.
"People come to council meetings and city hall to participate in public life and express themselves, so we're concerned that trespass notices can violate freedom of expression and the right to assembly," said CCLA spokesperson Cara Zwibel.
Zwibel acknowledged that bans may be necessary in cases where someone poses a "credible threat" to council or the public, but expressed concern that such measures can also be abused by politicians seeking to insulate themselves from criticism.
She also characterized the indefinite nature of Haddad's ban as "extreme."
Windsor CAO Helga Reidel acknowledged that Haddad had not been violent or threatening, but said his "continuously disruptive" behaviour made some staff, as well as members of the media, feel uncomfortable.
"We don't do these trespassing bans lightly," she said. "But when we got the third party complaints, we decided to something."
Although Haddad often spoke before council, Reidel said his contributions seldom pertained to anything on the agenda.
"In the times that he was a delegate, he wasn't speaking to the issues that were before city council," she said. "He simply wanted a voice on whatever issue he wished, and that can disrupt a meeting."
Reidel sympathizes with the concerns raised by the CCLA, and has informed the organization that Haddad's prohibition has been lifted. Her office is also looking to formalize the policy around bans, a process that will include investigating whether indefinite bans are appropriate.
"Those critiques of our process were valid," she said. "We are looking at policy. We are looking at that particular issue and I think some added scrutiny of the process will be a good thing."
A video of Haddad being escorted out of city hall by police last year is embedded below. The comments in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of Metro News Canada.