Some people might wonder just how John Kelly’s rascrenegades website came to be.
In 2019, at the General Assembly of the RASC in Toronto, among the presentations was a discussion panel on inclusivity and diversity, put on by the committee of that name.
Though a panel of presenters was expected, only Charles Ennis was actually at the front table. He started out with an extended monologue, and among other topics mentioned how the National Board of the RASC had expelled a member in 2016 after accusing him of a “sexual assault”.
During the question period that followed, Grace Nelson stood up and asked about the validity of calling what happened an actual assault, questioning the justification for such an extremely punitive action on the part of the Board.
Charles then said that he didn’t want to discuss the expulsion (despite his having brought it up in the first place), because the complainant in the case was present in the room.
Grace replied simply that yes, she knew who that was.
At that juncture. three women got up and stomped out of the room: Heather Laird. Nicole Mortillaro, and Katrina Ince-Lum.
Heather (the complainant in question) was in the same Calgary Centre as Grace, and insisted that the then Centre President, Roland Dechesne, demand that Grace resign from her posts on the Centre Council and National Council, as well as formally apologizing to Heather. This despite the fact that it had been Charles Ennis, not Grace, who opened the door to discussing the 2016 expulsion, and Charles again, not Grace, who changed the subject to involve the identity of the complainant.
Meanwhile, section G23 of the RASC Policy Manual, the Society’s process for resolving disputes between members, puts a Centre President in the role of a conciliator between members in case of a dispute… not to take sides and apply sanctions to one of the parties. A complaint under our Policy Manual could follow G24, in the case of certain types of harassment, or if the complain did not involve specific harassments, any dispute would fall under the auspices of section G23.
Roland sent Heather’s complaint and one witness statement to Grace. Grace went outside the Society and requested the assistance of her Legal Agent who was already helping Grace out on another issue, Mr. John Kelly… as she was fully entitled to do.
Mr Kelly contacted Roland by phone and asked for certain particulars about those statements. Roland freely admitted to Mr Kelly that he had altered the statements prior to sending them to Grace.
Roland then abandoned all efforts to continue with the process, abrogating thereby his responsibility as Centre President. He had effectively been acting as an advocate for Heather Laird in the matter, rather than as an unbiased conciliator..
It was apparent to Grace that she was not getting a fair hearing, nor a correct process, at the Centre Council level, and since Heather and Charles were both on the National Board, and had Robyn Foret as an ally, plus others who had had a hand in the 2016 expulsion, it was extremely unlikely that a fair hearing at the National Board level was going to be possible, either.
Mr. Kelly’s methods are very aggressive, as any reading of his website will show. After Roland abandoned the effort, then Robyn Foret, in his own words “put myself in the driver’s seat”, and promptly drove the issue further into discord. Robyn claimed to have offered the Nelsons an ‘olive branch’, but it was but a shriveled twig with neither leaves nor olives, being as it was an ultimatum to call off Mr. Kelly (who had sent several emails to some of the Centre Council members), and maybe afterwards there might be talk or something… but nothing concrete was actually offered.
Had I been able to suggest something, I might have proposed seeing what Robyn had to offer, if anything… however at that time I was excluded from the discussions. Meanwhile, instead of seeking ways to resolve the problem, Robyn and several other Calgary Centre Council members instead researched Mr. Kelly’s background and came up with misinformation and disinformation.
In reality, it might have been a simple matter to follow the Society’s policies in the beginning to realize that the whole controversy had gotten off on the wrong foot with Roland, to rescind the demands for resignations, and to proceed as per the RASC Policy Manual with a G23 conciliation process between Heather and Grace. The issue might have been resolved quickly and quietly in a collegial and respectful manner.
Instead, Robyn, and the Board, took the path of spiteful vindictiveness, Including but not limited to, ambushing Roger Nelson at a National Board meeting, aided by Heather Laird, Charles Ennis, Chris Gainor and others, resulting in enforcement proceedings being started against the Nelsons. The Board refused all attempts to address or discuss the issue, refused to even consider seeking a resolution, and kept ‘doubling down’, eventually expelling both Roger and Grace Nelson from the Society and removed them from the Calgary Centre Council. These last actions ignored the Centre Bylaw and Canada Not For Profit Corporations Act, which require member meetings to confirm the ‘defrocking’ of Centre Council and National Board members, respectively.
Even though Heather repudiated her complaint toward the end of November, the National Board continued its malicious attacks against Roger and Grace, and the rascrenegades website was created in mid-December of 2019 in response to the actions on the part of the National Board..
As a result of this intransigence on the part of the National Board, and their unwillingness to even consider discussing the matter, the situation has only worsened. At one point I even exhorted the National Board to inquire of Mr. Kelly what would be necessary to settle things, and was treated with contempt for the mere suggestion.
Mr. Kelly’s website describes many misdeeds by the National Board over the course of many months, including a pattern of poor behaviour in response to criticism of National Board decisions and positions.
Heather seemed not to tolerate well the stress she had brought upon herself with the whole process, and resigned from the National Board and from the Society in January of 2020.
The final result was the loss of two National Board members and two Calgary Centre Council members over a controversy that never should have seen the light of day in the first place, plus influencing my own expulsion in 2021 as I made attempts to resolve the issue.