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Controversial town councillor resigns in Claresholm

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WATCH ABOVE: A Claresholm councillor has officially tendered her resignation after saying she feels intimidated and silenced by her peers. Demi Knight reports – Aug 14, 2018

Donna Courage, a councillor in Claresholm who filed a human rights complaint against the southwest Alberta town, has resigned.

Mayor Doug MacPherson made the announcement shortly after a regular meeting of town council got underway Monday evening.

“It is unfortunate that she chose to resign,” MacPherson told council.

In a media release, MacPherson wrote:

“Regretfully, Claresholm town council has received the resignation of Councillor Donna Courage, effective today. The remaining members of council are disappointed that Donna has chosen to resign. Since election day on Oct. 16, 2017, council has continually expressed its desire to work as a cohesive unit in the best interest of our community. Although council is disappointed by Donna’s choice, we respect her decision. On behalf of council, I would like to thank Donna for her service to the citizens of Claresholm.”

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READ MORE: Claresholm councillor files human rights complaint against town

Courage, a first-term councillor, was elected in October 2017 as part of an entirely new town council but has since been the subject of controversy.

Her husband, Paul Champion, cofounded the Claresholm Citizens Coalition, a group demanding transparency and accountability from council.

Courage’s ties to that group were seen by some, including her council colleagues, as inappropriate.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a huge conflict of interest’: inside the Claresholm council dispute

In January, Courage claimed the situation resulted in her being assaulted in her home.

RCMP investigated the matter but to date, no charges have been laid.

WATCH:  A Claresholm councillor is going public after an alleged assault during a home invasion. Donna Courage had originally thought about resigning, but has since decided to stay in her position after receiving overwhelming support. But as Matt Battochio reports, there’s more to the story.

Click to play video: '‘It’s a huge conflict of interest’: Claresholm council dispute' ‘It’s a huge conflict of interest’: Claresholm council dispute
‘It’s a huge conflict of interest’: Claresholm council dispute – Jan 25, 2018

Courage said she was taken to hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the attack.

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That incident garnered attention from politicians across Alberta, with Premier Rachel Notley taking to Twitter to share a message of support for the councillor.

READ MORE: RCMP investigate alleged assault of Claresholm town councillor

In early February, a human rights complaint filed by Courage was made public during a special meeting of Claresholm’s town council.

It’s not known what the human rights complaint is based on, but in an interview with Global News in January, Courage made allegations of bullying.

Courage declined an interview with Global News following that special meeting.

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When reached by phone on Monday, Courage confirmed to Global News that she had resigned.

“I am not the story here,” Courage said.

“If you want to do a story, find out why Municipal Affairs allows small-town Alberta governments to hijack their towns — they’re a toothless tiger with no interest in fair government,” she added.

“There are many towns across Canada that have cases of bullying, abuse and intimidation — not only Claresholm, but a lot of them — and yet Municipal Affairs will not step up to the plate and fix the problem.”

Courage also told Global News Monday that she felt bullied by members of Claresholm’s town council, but would not elaborate on any specific incidents during her time in office.

On Tuesday, Courage spoke to Global News again and said she resigned, at least partly, because she felt her colleagues didn’t respect her because she is a woman.

“In rural Alberta and small-town Alberta, the old boys mentality is rampant everywhere,” she said, adding she believes the issue is one faced by many Canadian communities.

“My reasons for leaving this council is I’ve lost confidence in this council to effectively represent the people that they are supposed to be representing.”

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Claresholm council passed a motion Monday evening regarding the upcoming by-election to fill Courage’s seat.

An advance poll will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the official by-election day set for Monday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

WATCH: Donna Courage, a town councillor in Claresholm, Alta., has filed a human rights complaint against the town. Political tensions there have been front and centre in recent weeks, amid the formation of a citizens’ coalition co-founded by Courage’s husband. Joe Scarpelli reports. 

Click to play video: 'Claresholm councillor files human rights complaint against Alberta town' Claresholm councillor files human rights complaint against Alberta town
Claresholm councillor files human rights complaint against Alberta town – Feb 2, 2018

–With files from Global News’ Demi Knight

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