Open Letter to Council – Caitlin McKenzie
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Submitted by one of our members:
When I learned that there were substantiated harassment claims within Barrie’s city council, by a member of counsel towards a city employee, I truly thought that the right thing would be done.
That there would be consequences and we would, as the community who elected these officials, be privy to the process of discipline the councilor would receive and be able to contribute to the proceedings in a meaningful way.
That has not happened.
Instead those who are in power have been able to hide their wrong doing behind legal and political jargon. Behind closed session and confidentiality. They have tried their best to shove this harassment into the very farthest corner of the attic, even attempting to vote against having independent legal council conduct an investigation.
Harassment is harassment.
I have no personal connection or knowledge of what has happened between the complainant and the city councilor in question. The exact details do not matter. Any kind of harassment needs to be dealt with seriously.
This is a universal problem that is being played out on our small cities stage.
That those in power protect others in power from consequence is nothing new.
I have been harassed in the workplace before. I have had men make inappropriate jokes while I stand at the copy machine, hoping desperately that they don’t make a physical advance again.
Had them massage my shoulders and sniff my hair when I’m attempting to enter data into a spreadsheet.
I have been told to never enter certain men’s offices without someone else to act as a witness.
I have stood in those offices alone and endured some of the most frightening moments of my life.
In those toxic working cultures I could not report this harassment because these men were my bosses and I needed my job to survive.
I want better from my city council.
I want better for my city than to have this kind of report ignored or shoved to the side.
I cannot imagine how the person who was harassed feels right now. Watching from the sidelines as people try to sweep their proven story under the rug.
What are we teaching when we allow people in positions of power to behave in toxic ways and have them protected at all costs?
I am hopeful that this community is going to shift the court of public opinion and force those in power on our small stage into doing what is right. I am hopeful that we will be able to help others who may be terrified of reporting harassment come forward. I am hopeful we will be able to force our city councilors to feel their own humanity, and act accordingly.
We, as the people who hired these councilors, deserve to know what their harassment policy will be going forward. We deserve to know what discipline has been handed down to the perpetrator of the offence; if we aren’t able to know this persons name we should at least know that.
Ultimately, I think the City of Barrie needs to take a long hard look at how it deals with human rights complaints.
I want every member of my community to feel safe going to work, including the cities employees. The cities councilors are meant to uphold the values this community holds dear, and the majority of them are failing miserably to do so.
This person came to their job, wanting to do just that, their job.
They were harassed at their workplace by a councilor who has, by definition, power over them.
The City of Barrie will not sit comfortably and turn a blind eye to this.
We will not let them.