Standing Ovation for female councillor Koch of Kenora on human rights question at recent AMO Conference
One hundred and eighty-six municipalities in support, and growing weekly, along with Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Rural Ontario Municipal Association, and the Ontario Big City mayors are calling on government to legislation to address the rampant and underreported instances of harassment perpetrated by municipally elected officials. The call is for legislation that would not only provide a process for removal of councillors who egregiously harass someone but would restrict subsequent re-election for those found guilty.
Councillor Lindsay Koch from Kenora stood up in the “Bear Pit” at the AMO conference in London last Tuesday, and asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing when this government will make this legislation a priority. She received the longest and loudest cheers accompanied by a standing ovation.
The push stems from ‘The Women of Ontario Say NO’ – a grassroots consortium of individuals, organizations and community groups that want to see the current reality addressed. As it stands, municipal councillors can perpetrate the most egregious acts of harassment with a maximum penalty of only 90 days suspension without pay. The call for legislative change includes amendments to the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act that would legislate adherence to violence and harassment policies, provide a process for removal for investigated and substantiated acts (that includes a judicial review) and a restriction on subsequent re-election for those found guilty.
“The reality is that we have people in communities with the most power, who are effectively immune from the standards of treatment we have come to expect in every other workplace,” states Emily McIntosh, lead advocate (pictured). “This is making communities sick and is a blatant gap in human rights legislation. Women, who are the primary victims, either suffer in silence, as removal isn’t an option unless they go to the police and the person is convicted, or are forced to leave their jobs. This is unacceptable in today’s world.”