Some P.E.I. veterans want their voices heard during Summerside councillor's trial

Some groups representing P.E.I. veterans are upset that more of them weren't allowed in the Summerside courtroom Wednesday for another court appearance in the proceedings against Barb Gallant.

Gallant, a Summerside city councillor, was charged in April with one count of theft over $5,000 in relation to money missing from the accounts of the Lest We Forget Veterans' Committee. She had been the committee's executive director, a volunteer position.

The case was adjourned until July 3 — but only one veteran from among those assembled was allowed inside the courtroom to hear the brief proceedings Wednesday.

"The rest of us were kind of left a little bewildered and kind of confused," said veteran Marle Gaudet, a representative of Veterans' Corner, a support group for veterans.

Gaudet and other veterans gathered at the courthouse told CBC News they want their voices heard.

"We would like to let them know how we're feeling, how it's impacted us, our families and the community itself," she said.

"Nobody is talking about the actual support and mental health triggers that we're experiencing during this period of time."

Observing the process would also give her a better understanding of what's happening, Gaudet said.

Carl Delaney was the only person who were able to get into the court building.
Carl Delaney was the only veteran allowed into the courtroom on Wednesday. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

P.E.I.'s provincial director of prosecution says the best way for the veterans to have their voices heard is to contact the Victim Services office in Summerside. That comes into play only after a trial is concluded and only if the person is found guilty or pleads guilty, however.

"The Criminal Code is clear that impact on victims is a relevant consideration in sentencing," John Diamond said in an email Wednesday afternoon.

There is also what is called community victim impact statements as well, so the organization or a collective group such as the Legion could offer a victim impact statement. — John Diamond

Staff from Victim Services work with individuals to prepare impact statements, often in the form of written letters that are read out in court during a sentencing hearing.

"There is also what is called community victim impact statements as well, so the organization or a collective group such as the Legion could offer a victim impact statement," Diamond wrote.

CBC News reached out to provincial court officials to ask why more veterans were not allowed into the courtroom on Wednesday, but has not yet received an official response.

Brief proceeding

Wednesday's court proceedings lasted just over one minute. Gallant was not in court, but her lawyer, Peter Ghiz, asked for the delay because he needed time to review the evidence against his client.

The charge against Gallant has not been tested in court.

Summerside City Coun. Barb Gallant walks into Summerside Provincial Court May 29, 2024. She faces one charge of theft over $5,000.
Barb Gallant walks into Summerside Provincial Court on May 29 for an appearance related to being charged with one charge of theft over $5,000. (Rob Leclair/CBC)

Veteran Carl Delaney was allowed in the courtroom on Wednesday and said he was disappointed in the delay. The longer the case drags on, the harder it is on veterans, said Delaney.

"It's a real burden. We're embarrassed, being a committee looking after veterans and having this on our shoulder. It's not good," he said.

Meanwhile, Summerside City Council voted Wednesday evening to disqualify Gallant from office for the rest of her term, since she has missed three regularly scheduled council meetings in a row.

The province's Municipal Government Act says that is grounds for removal.

Gallant, who was elected to represent Summerside's Ward 5 in late 2022, hasn't been to a monthly meeting since the charge against her was laid.