The Ontario Dental Association pleaded guilty Friday to contravening the Ontario Municipal Elections Act in the run up to the fluoridation referendum in 2010.
The ODA reached a plea deal in Provincial Offences Court for failing to register as a referendum participant before incurring expenses related to attending a debate on water fluoridation held at the Hauser Haus at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.
That included producing materials promoting the Ontario Dental Association’s pro-water fluoridation position that were made available to the public at the June 17, 2010, meeting.
Robert Fleming, executive director of WaterlooWatch and the elected president of Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation, swore out charges against ODA, stating it had contravened Section 94 of the Municipal Elections Act.
Provincial prosecutors proceeded with the charges against the ODA and the past-presidents of the organization Dr. Ira Kirshen and local dentist Dr. Harry Hoediono, who both attended the debate.
Justice Arthur Child ruled against a motion made by the Ontario Dental Association and the two dentists to dismiss the case at the end of August and set a trial date for Nov. 13.
A plea agreement was reached in the case last Thursday night. As part of the plea bargain charges against the two dentists were withdrawn after the ODA admitted guilt. The association was given a suspended sentence and wasn’t fined.
Fleming said he hoped the case would go to court and clear up some of the claims that were made during preliminary deliberations.
The case turned ugly with accusations that the charges were frivolous and vexatious. Defense attorney Murray Stieber also produced a sworn affidavit by Hoediono, saying he was intimidated during the referendum and the campaign of intimidation continued.
Fleming said he also was hoping to put some of the ODA’s scientific claims about the benefits of water fluoridation to the test, but had to settle with what might be an important precedent.
“In the interest of having just one fluoridation referendum, charges against the Ontario Dental Association were sworn out early during the campaign period, and I am pleased the ODA plead guilty to the charges as laid,” said Fleming. “The local municipal democratic process was successfully protected.
“For the last two years the ODA has been unsuccessful in proving the charges were unfounded, meritless, intimidation and abuse of process. Just as the evidence and merits of the case were about to be heard, the ODA suddenly plead guilty.
“While justice was served, I suspect the ODA leaders remain as arrogant and evasive today as they were two years ago.”
In what proved to be a tight referendum vote, the citizens of Waterloo voted to end the practice of water fluoridation by a narrow 50.3 per cent margin on Oct. 25, 2010. While the vote wasn’t binding, politicians respected the results and ended the addition of fluoride to the water for the first since 1967.