Twitter lawsuit wasn’t about politics, complainant says


One of the three people who sued Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson for blocking them on Twitter says her decision to move ahead with the lawsuit during the election campaign wasn’t politically motivated.


Watson blocked Emilie Taman in late September after an exchange about then Capital ward candidate Shawn Menard’s campaign. Menard went on to win the Oct. 22 election.

Watson said people in the ward were tired of Menard’s angry campaign style, and Taman —​ who previously ran for office for the NDP and door-knocked with Menard —​ came to Menard’s defence, saying many people in the ward want to push back on Watson’s “right-wing agenda.”

She was taken aback to find herself blocked not long after the exchange.

“I was actually quite surprised, despite the fact that the mayor has quite a reputation for blocking people freely on Twitter. We’ve had our disagreements in the past and he’s never resorted to blocking me,” she told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning on Monday.

Does the Mayor have the right to block his critics on Twitter? Jim Watson said yes before the election — but now, he’s changed his tune … weeks after three critics launched a law suit. We’ll get reaction, this hour. 5:55

Lawsuit’s timing ‘not calculated’

Taman, along with two others blocked by the mayor — James Hutt, an organizer with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and a central figure in the pop-up overdose prevention tent that operated illegally in Ottawa last year, and Dylan Penner, a media officer for the Council of Canadians — later decided to sue Watson

On Friday, Watson released a statement saying his account is in fact public because he uses it “in the exercise of his day-to-day duties as Mayor of the City of Ottawa,” and unblocked everyone he had blocked. Watson had previously argued his account was a “personal” one.

Last week, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson backed down from his earlier stance that his Twitter account was ‘personal,’ and unblocked detractors. (CBC)

Taman, a lawyer, professor and political activist, denied the timing of the lawsuit, announced near the end of Watson’s re-election campaign, was political.

“You have to advance these claims in a timely manner and the mayor chose to block all three of the applicants in the middle of an election campaign. And so, it was certainly not calculated in any way. I couldn’t have planned that timing and I certainly wasn’t attempting to get the mayor to block me,” she said.

“I have never crossed a line…. I have never used profanities, I have never attacked the mayor personally. I think part of the challenge is that Jim Watson takes any kind of criticism as a personal attack on his integrity.”

CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning