Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Prez Kevin Hargreaves (Kelsey’s) Sent Letter by OCLA Over Canadian Charter Issue for All Candidate Debate

Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Prez Kevin Hargreaves (Kelsey’s) Sent Letter by   OCLA Over Canadian Charter Issue for All Candidate Debate
Joseph Hickey from the OCLA
Joseph Hickey from the OCLA

CORNWALL Ontario – Cornwall can at times seem like a place that never connected to the rest of the world and

Kevin Hargreaves Photo:Facebook
Kevin Hargreaves Photo:Facebook

where rules and customs followed elsewhere don’t seem to matter?

As a matter of fact when some of the residents in power are confronted or asked a question the responses  tend to turn ugly and bullying is common among a certain group.

Current Cornwall Chamber of Commerce President and local Kelsey’s (Cara) franchisee Kevin Hargreaves slots in to that as he actually wrote a note dismissing our charter of rights and Freedoms.   In many cities Mr. Hargreaves would have been asked by his board to resign immediately; but again, this is Cornwall.

For the first time ever the Chamber, which has a long history of hosting the big All Candidates debate in Cornwall, decided to submit a set of guidelines to candidates and rules for the audience with candidates having to sign off to be able to participate and with notifications of removal from the debate and/or hall if violated.

It was confirmed that this was for the first time ever that this was done; but the chamber refused to state why?

When I received the package I asked three very simply friendly questions.

What was considered inappropriate  apparel?  Did the Chamber read our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as many Canadians think this is important?  And could they send me the 2010 guidelines (although I knew there had been none prior)The guidelines also made statements regarding speech by candidates during the debate.

What Mr. Hargreaves sent was most disturbing.  Disturbing for his answer; but also for the fact that he included a Strictly Confidential email from director Lezlie Strasser to the board of directors of the Chamber.

Mr. Gilcig,


Proper Business Casual for Men

  • Try khakis and a button-down shirt. If you opt for other shirt styles, it should always have a collar and sleeves. Clothing should always be clean and wrinkle-free. Avoid any holes or fraying. Wear socks in a color that coordinates with your pants, and that are long enough to avoid exposing your skin when you sit.

Shoes should be polished and leather is preferred. Avoid athletic shoes or boots. It is wise to keep a jacket and tie in the office for any unexpected meetings or guests.

While business casual is designed to make you more comfortable, you should always convey a professional and poised appearance.

Read more :


Never mind the Canadian Charter of Rights.  This is an event we, the Chamber are putting on and can impose whatever dress code we feel is appropriate.  The fact that you had to ask what is appropriate is ridiculous.  If you want to run this City you should have some idea of what “appropriate attire” is.  Should you choose to deviate from the directions you will be either be removed from the forum or the salon as a whole.




Kevin Hargreaves

President, Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce




From: Lezlie Strasser @ Cornwall Chamber []
Sent: September 18, 2014 1:55 PM
To: Kelsey’s 7091; Nada Kovinich; Jodi Hawkshaw;; Rick Shaver
Subject: Fw: All Candidates debate/STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
Importance: High




To the Chamber Board of Directors …




An information package describing the scheduled Chamber All Candidates forum has been sent to all those standing for the 2014 municipal election. Subsequent to the electronic delivery of the documents, one of the candidates has responded with two messages:


  1. A) A candidate is asking the Chamber for a definition of ‘APPROPRIATE’ as outlined in the Candidate Guidelines (document attached) and the message contains a veiled suggestion with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


  1. B) That same candidate is asking for a copy of the agreement form issued for the 2010 municipal election.


With respect to B, there was no need for such a document leading to the 2010 debate. The 2014 guidelines and agreement form were prepared and disseminated as part of the Chamber’s due-diligence.


Directors will recall at a earlier Board meeting that no Director or member of the Executive Committee were prepared to Chair the event. Further, I was specifically directed that under no circumstances was I to put the Chamber and its Board in a position such that it would be sued. In light of Board’s stance, and in light of the possibility, unfounded or not, of a Charter of Rights challenge, I am not prepared to move forward with this event.


Respectfully submitted,


Lezlie Strasser

I was shocked and bewildered as I’m sure many others were this weekend in reading this email.

I responded:

Hi Everyone,

I’m shocked and stunned to be reading this note from Mr. Hargreaves and bewildered at the note from Ms Strasser included.
First off Mr. Hargreaves I would suggest that the Charter is very important here in Canada.
Second I asked a very simple question of Lyette.   
Hi Lyette,
Can you please clarify “inappropriate apparel” please? 
Please note I asked what was inappropriate, not what was appropriate.  If I wore a kilt, keepah, burkha, or a poppy would Dan Allaire or Bill Kingston publicly chastise me on live tv?   I’m not sure I’ve seen too many debates or political events that didn’t have pins, hats, etc.
As for the statements from Ms Strasser, what has changed from 2010 to now?    
I would suggest the best remedy for this most embarrassing document would be for the chamber to revert to how it ran the debate in 2010.
I would suggest that the long tradition of the chamber hosting the debate at the civic complex not be further marred or disrespected as Mr. Hargreaves has just done with our charter.
It is the chamber’s roll to host the debate; not to dictate what is said or worn by candidates in a free and democratic country, and debates like this are integral to practicing and nurturing our local democracy.
This is important to all of us.  It really is.
Jamie Gilcig

A few of the other candidates replied to me as well:

Greg Kielec, running for council:

Not to mention no electronic devices are allowed. Never seen that before at a candidates debate. In Toronto people are live tweeting every event in blow by blow coverage. Downright strange.

Candidate Rony Macarone (not his real name)  showed that he just might fit in with many of the current council as he took a shot at yours truly.  Mr. Macarone also is a member of a Boycott CFN facebook group.

Hi Jamie, 

I do understand your dilemma, perhaps you would like some help?
I do have some styling knowledge for +size men.  You don’t have to spend a lot if anything.
Let me know if you would like some help and I’ll do what I can.
I never where a tie, but I think I look okay when i’m out in public…  No PJs at Baxtroms for me! 😉
Kevin is right, the chamber is a private corporation and can dictate dress code for it’s events etc.  As I do for my companies and countless others like McDonalds & RBC…  You don’t have to agree, just don’t go.

Rony Macarone
For Cornwall Council

Well nothing was heard back from Mr. Hargreaves.  Today though Mr. Joseph Hickey of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association did write a letter to Mr. Hargreaves:


September 22, 2014

Kevin Hargreaves, President

Cornwall Chamber of Commerce

113 Second St. E, Suite 100

Cornwall, ON  K6J 1Y5

Re: Freedom of expression at October 15 All Candidates Debate

Mr. Hargreaves:

I write on behalf of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) regarding the “All Candidates Forum” to be held onOctober 15, 2014 and organized by the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with TV Cogeco. The forum will include presentations of candidates’ election platforms and a debate between mayoralty candidates.

We have been informed by Mr. Jamie Gilcig, candidate for Mayor of Cornwall, that your organization has decided to implement a dress code for the October 15 forum. Mr. Gilcig informs us that this dress code would prevent him from, for example, wearing a T-shirt showing a political message of his choice during the forum.

As you know, freedom of expression is vital to all Canadians. This fundamental freedom has been called the lifeblood of a democratic society. We are deeply concerned that your organization would seek to impose a code that could interfere with or deny a political candidate’s expression of a political message at a debate that will be a significant event in the process of electing Cornwall’s next mayor.

Although the Chamber of Commerce is not a government entity and may not be bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as the organizer of a televised candidates debate in a municipal election, it is highly concerning that you would take the position that Mr. Gilcig should “never mind” the Charter and the rights enshrined therein, as you communicated to this candidate in an email on September 18. Ignoring the spirit of the Charter in this way would subvert the Chamber of Commerce’s effort to provide community interaction with this year’s candidates and raises concerns about the Chamber’s commitment to democratic values.

We ask that you change the guidelines for the All Candidates Forum such that they do not interfere with Mr. Gilcig’s and other candidates’ freedom of expression. We also ask you to issue a public statement about how freedom of expression will be respected at the forum and the steps your organization will take to uphold this vital right.

Yours truly,

Joseph Hickey

Executive Director

Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA)

613-252-6148 (c)


It should be noted that all I asked for was what was considered inappropriate?  I haven’t worn a message shirt in quite a long time.  In fact I’d purchased a new suit for the Chamber event.

For me personally I value our Charter of Rights.  It is important.   The role of the chamber is important too.  I thought so when I ran for its board several years ago to be told that I’d lost; but the chamber refused to give out the vote count.   After two members died during the term they were forced to put me on the board.  It was bizarre and strange; almost as strange as this experience has been.

Frankly there is one  clear answer to this situation.    The debate should continue under the rules of 2010.   And Mr. Hargreaves should immediately resign or be removed for his comment and for releasing Ms Strasser’s Strictly Confidential board email.

Does Cornwall mayor Bob Kilger really fear debating both Leslie O’Shaughnessy and myself?  It should be noted that the City’s liason to the chamber is……Mayor Bob Kilger.   And Councilor Denis Carr, who is running himself,  is on the board for the Heart of the City agency.

The people of Cornwall deserve a fair and open debate. If they want to live tweet or take pictures with their phones or electronic devices they should be allowed to.  If they want to wear a t shirt of their choice they should be allowed too.

There are countries in this world that don’t have Democracy or the rights we do.  With declining voter turnouts do we really want to be putting limits on candidates or voters?

No, Mr. Hargreaves has made a grave error in judgement.  He needs to be accountable for it.

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