St. Catharines follows region in stronger workplace anti-harassment policy


Published May 17, 2023 at 2:53 pm

St. Catharines Council Chambers

Less than a month after Niagara Regional Council unanimously passed Pelham councillor Diana Huson’s motion to put some bite behind an anti-harassment workplace policy, St. Catharines has done the same.

After the April vote, St. Councillor regional councillor Laura Ip noted, “If a Councillor opposes being held accountable to standard workplace violence and harassment policies, one really should ask why that is.”

It seems St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe (also part of that regional vote) feels like and brought forth a motion on Monday (May 15) that will deal out severe consequences to any councillor who crosses the line of disrespectful behaviour and workplace harassment.

Both the region and St. Catharines cited the provincial Private Member’s Bill 5, “Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act,” created by Orléans MPP Stephen Blais, a Liberal.

The motion brought forward by Siscoe could possibly see offending council members ejected from their seats to the remainder of the term and forbid them from running in the next election.

The motion noted that “several incidents in recent years of disrespectful behaviour and workplace harassment have occurred amongst members of municipal councils” and that “these incidents seriously and negatively affect the people involved and lower public perceptions of local governments.”

Said Siscoe afterwards, “”I think the penalties that are imagined are even stronger than what’s been considered in the past, and I appreciate the advocacy work that’s already been done.  This motion is one that was passed by OBCM, the Ontario Big City Mayor’s caucus.”

Welland, which is also looking at the same policy, is waiting until all members had a chance to read the provincial legislation.

While there are pockets of the community who believe bad behaviour is best punished at the ballot box, Ip pointed out that leaves abusers safe for far too long.

“Some would say that elections are appropriate enough to remove elected officials from office when they engage in harmful behaviour,” she noted. “However, this means someone could – for instance – sexually harass an employee for FOUR YEARS with no/minimal consequences.”

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