Councillor in Fort McMurray suing mayor and municipality for $1.1M

Shafiq Dogar filed the lawsuit in Court of King's Bench in January this year. ( - image credit)
Shafiq Dogar filed the lawsuit in Court of King's Bench in January this year. ( - image credit)

A Wood Buffalo councillor is suing the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and mayor for more than $1 million, alleging they made a false statement about his views on Indigenous people, causing damage to his reputation and safety.

Coun. Shafiq Dogar filed the lawsuit in Court of King's Bench in January.

The issue stems from a council meeting on Feb. 3, 2022.

During a discussion about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Dogar made comments that some Indigenous leaders and politicians said were hateful against Indigenous people.

The full statement can be seen during a video of the council meeting.

According to the statement of claim, shortly after Dogar made these comments, Mayor Sandy Bowman issued a statement through the municipality's official page attributing a statement to Dogar.

On Feb. 4, council called for Dogar's resignation, "further intensifying the fear and harassment he experienced," alleges the statement of claim.

On Feb. 9, the municipality released a statement on behalf of the mayor that said the initial statement that was released did not capture verbatim what was said at the public council meeting. This statement was not included in Dogar's lawsuit.

The previous version of the statement is not accessible on the municipality's website.

In the days following, Dogar said he received "obnoxious and frightening" messages from people on social media and by phone.

Other local politicians also condemned his comments, including MP Laila Goodridge and MLA Brian Jean, the statement says.

He added he faced "discrimination" at a local seniors centre after being a volunteer there for nine years, and while driving his taxi he was almost assaulted by a group of Indigenous people.

The statement of claim alleges that Dogar has faced financial losses of $50,000 a year, as he was in the midst of getting a job with local transport companies, but those opportunities vanished after the incident.

He says his political career was also negatively impacted, as now he fears for his safety and can't visit the Wood Buffalo communities of Fort Chipewyan and Conklin.

Dogar is suing for $1.1 million for defamation, monetary losses, emotional distress and damage to his career.

In the statement of defence, the mayor and municipality deny the allegations.

They say that after the council meeting, and public outcry against Dogar, he made a post on Facebook, which included an apology for an example he gave during his statement in council.

Council directed the integrity commissioner to investigate the issue. The report was issued in May 2022. It found that Dogar did violate the municipality's code of conduct. The commissioner recommended that Dogar be removed from council committees and not represent the municipality at functions, the statement says.

The statement of defence also says that the alleged statement the municipality released was not published on its website. And if it were, it wouldn't have damaged Dogar's reputation.

The municipality also says the alleged statement isn't defamatory.

As well, it says Dogar damaged his own reputation through his actions.

The municipality denied CBC's request for comment. Dogar did not respond to CBC's request by the time of publication.