Whitby Mayor believes anti-harrassment legislation goes beyond just municipal councils

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Published May 9, 2023 at 12:34 pm

Queen's Park

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy believes proposed legislation to stop harassment by elected officials can have an impact on more than just municipal councils.

Roy held a press conference at Queen’s Park Monday morning in support of Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act, which was introduced last August by Liberal MPP Stephen Blais as a private member’s bill, amending the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

The amendments require the code of conduct for municipal councillors and members of local boards to include a requirement to comply with workplace violence and harassment policies.

The amendments also permit municipalities and local boards to direct the Integrity Commissioner to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat if the commissioner’s inquiry determines the member has contravened the code of conduct by failing to comply with the workplace violence or harassment policies.

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy

Roy, who said the timing of her press conference during Sexual Assault Prevention was appropriate, said the legislation is an “opportunity” to recognize the “strength of survivors, identify steps to make our communities safer, and have conversations with friends, family and co-workers about what we can do to prevent sexual assault.”

“Everyone deserves to feel confident that the public and private spaces in their community are safe – that includes homes, workplaces and schools,” she said. “The Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act is one way we can make workplaces safer.”

Roy noted that one in three women and one in eight men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime and feeling safe from violence in the workplace needs to include all working environments, including municipal councils.

“For too long, we have had a gap when it comes to accountability for municipal politicians. Currently, there is no process to remove municipal politicians from office — even if serious acts of harassment and abuse are committed and substantiated.”

“The existing penalties are not enough to maintain public trust in local government,” she added, “and they are not enough to ensure safe workplaces.”

Roy said there have been many examples of workplace harassment and “disrespectful behaviour” among members of municipal councils in Ontario in recent years, citing the previous term of Whitby Council when several elected officials were publicly accused of sexual innuendo, body shaming and harassment. Roy wants to see Bill 5 passed to ensure there is accountability for elected officials.

“It’s common sense reform that is badly needed,” she said. “As elected officials, we should be held to the same standard as people at any other workplace.”

“We need action and accountability, now.”

The 2018-2022 term of Whitby Council

Whitby Council endorsed the bill April 24, one of more than 50 municipalities to do so. Support for the proposed legislation is also shared by Ontario’s Big City Mayors – which represents mayors of cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

Bill 5 establishes a judicial process to remove councillors who commit acts of abuse or harassment from office, holding them to the same standard as any other workplace in Ontario, where these actions would result in employment being terminated.

“The fact that we are elected officials should not provide immunity from facing consequences related to workplace harassment and abuse,” Roy said.

 

 

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