It’s an issue that has sparked arguments, been the topic of some heated debates and has stirred up emotions in the community over the past several weeks.
The controversy over the proposed placement of the Cougar AVGP in Memorial Park has created a divisiveness amongst Sackville residents that has gone further than anyone could have imagined – even become, at times, uncivil and disrespectful.
Coun. Bill Evans spoke out Tuesday evening about how he was troubled by the “state of incivility” that has permeated throughout the town, particularly on social media channels, in the ongoing debate over the Cougar.
“I’m gobsmacked that people let it get this far,” said Evans.
He said he respects that people have different opinions but he said it becomes a problem when people don’t respect others, and the process, enough to be civil.
“The park was established some time ago to commemorate the sacrifice of volunteer soldiers who in died in world wars and it has been changing ever since - first for the Korean Conflict and later for peacekeeping missions. Opinions may differ on this but we need to treat each other with respect as we work it out,” he said.
Evans said while there are legitimate differences of opinion on how Memorial Park should recognize the service and sacrifice of those who served, both sides deserve to have a voice.
He said he was also disturbed by the misinformation being tossed around on Facebook, particularly as it relates to council’s role throughout the process.
Council voted unanimously to accept the gift from the 8th Hussars back in February and no member since has indicated they want to refuse it, said Evans.
“Yet council has been pilloried individually, publicly and on social media for being despicable cowards for allegedly having done so.”
Coun. Allison Butcher explained that council did decide to postpone the installation of the Cougar last month until residents who were concerned over its placement had an opportunity to make a presentation to council.
That’s when things started going “off the rails,” said Butcher.
Between unflattering media reports and misinformation on social media, people started getting upset. And Butcher said she was surprised by the “shameful way it divided us” and the way people have responded to those whose opinions are different from theirs.
“It’s pitted neighbour against neighbour, people said horrible things about each other,” she said. “We are better than this.”
Butcher said this is an issue that’s obviously important to local residents and she hopes the town and the Hussars can come to an agreement on a fitting memorial for the park.
“I look forward to the end of all of the arguing and the beginning of a collaboration that can showcase our community’s strength and its diversity.”
“Let’s not let the poor behaviour of a few define our community,” he said. “This park belongs to all the citizens of Sackville and it’s our job as councillors to do, not what we want personally, but what is in the best interests of the entire municipality.