Women of Simcoe Say No media release re: the "Stopping Abuse and Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act" and the demonstration on September 21
(posted on behalf of Emily McIntosh, who is still busy organizing)
Media Release (downloadable PDF):
September 15, 2022
The Women of Simcoe Say No- collective advocacy for Bill 5
MEDIA EVENT: Wednesday, September 21 @6:30pm Barrie City Hall Council Chambers (inside)
Simcoe County, ON – As we approach municipal elections throughout the Province of Ontario on October 24, 2022, the public is facing the reality that those running for re-election have not been legally accountable to harassment and violence in the workplace policies. Further to this, municipally employed integrity commissioners tasked with investigating claims of harassment do not have access to a judicial process to pursue removal of elected officials from office for substantiated claims of egregious acts of sexual, emotional, and psychological misconduct.
“This is incredibly problematic when it comes to community wellbeing and workplace safety,” states Executive Director of CONTACT Community Services, Emily McIntosh. “Our municipally elected leaders are those representatives in the community that hold decision making power and whose position necessitates extensive community engagement. Without accountability structures in place with respect to harassment, the safety and wellbeing of community is adversely affected – and it’s a risk we can address.”
“This is simply not an acceptable reality,” states Jennifer Morin-Reynolds, a private citizen involved in the advocacy efforts. “As an educator and as somebody who has worked in Municipal Government, I have had to uphold strict safety measures, maintain ethical boundaries with staff and stakeholders, and be accountable for my actions. It is not right that local leaders at Council aren’t held to the same basic standards.”
A demonstration is planned for the City of Barrie’s next Council Meeting on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at 6:30 pm calling on the province to pass Bill 5 NOW to help ensure that those newly elected on October 24 are held to the same standard as all other employees in Ontario. All persons from all walks of life are welcome. “This demonstration is for every person who cares about basic human rights,” points out Jennifer Lloyd, founder of the Bradford Womens+ Group. “In particular, data supports that women are more adversely affected, so passing this bill NOW is about supporting the basic rights of women to live a life free of sexual and overall harassment. The beauty of the legislation is that everyone benefits.”
The demonstration is a direct response to the fact that a bill was on the table last provincial session to address this gap but was not prioritized by the current government. As a result, it died on the floor when the provincial election was called. It has since had to be re-introduced in August 2022 as Bill 5, “Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act” but has yet to be passed. “It's disappointing that this legislation has not yet been passed – it should have been passed last session. This is a matter of protecting human rights, and the fact that we are not holding our municipally elected leaders accountable for abhorrent behaviour is unacceptable” stated Chief Executive and Philanthropy Officer of the United Way of Simcoe Muskoka, Brian Shelley.
In addition to the demonstration at Barrie Council, a number of deputations are planned to various councils throughout the County of Simcoe to ask locally elected officials to take a greater role in advocating for accountability within their own workplaces. “We all have a role to play in making community spaces safe. This legislation is fundamental to that endeavor,” said Shelly Skinner, President of UPlift Black. Specifically, local councils will be asked to pass a motion to write a letter in support of Bill 5 to all local MPPs, the Premier, and MPP Stephen Blais, who introduced the bill in response to “...shocking and horrific abuse and harassment allegations by women facing this situation in the workplace from a sitting councillor [at the City of Ottawa] ...who still sits in his position of power.” (Stephen Blais, Hansard Transcript, March 9, 2022 https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-2/2022-03-09/hansard-1#para5 5).
Interestingly, the group has received feedback that the timing of the advocacy is ‘awkward’, given that new councils with new membership will be formed. “This is precisely the point,” explains Krista LaRiviere. The goal is to create awareness of this gap and empower people to be an agent of change. How awkward is it that women have to advocate for legislation to hold elected officials accountable for harassment in 2022? The idea is to use the municipal elections as the vehicle to highlight this unjustifiable gap in legislation and create the necessary change to ensure safe workplaces and communities for all people.”
This collective advocacy involves community organizations, groups, and private citizens, and is growing by the day. Citizens are encouraged to: 1) attend the demonstration at Barrie City Council on September 21, 2) ask local candidates about what they have, or will do to pass Bill 5, 3) call their MPP and request the legislation be passed NOW.
Media Inquiries: Emily McIntosh, Executive Director CONTACT Community Services 705-435-4900 ext. 202 Cell: 705-715-5018