May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month, a month that highlights the importance of recognizing that sexual violence is prevalent in communities. The Domestic Abuse Resource Team (DART) of Oxford County recognizes that gender-based violence is on the rise in our community and acknowledges the importance of moving Bill-5 forward to ensure that every workplace is safe and free of violence. Bill-5 is The Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act. It has been supported by Oxford County and is slated for its second reading this month in front of Parliament.
What does this bill do?
This bill has three primary components:
1. Require councillors to comply with the workplace violence and harassment policies of the municipality they represent.
2. Permit municipalities to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat for failing to comply with the municipality’s workplace violence and harassment policies.
3. Restrict councillors – whose seat has been vacated – from seeking immediate subsequent re-election.
Bill 5 was initially introduced as a response to a sitting councillor in Ottawa who was able to seek re-election, even with outstanding claims of sexual harassment. When councillors can perpetuate harassment without accountability, the message is sent to the community that local leaders are not held responsible to the health and safety of its community members. This differs from any other workplace in the province, where not only are workplaces mandated to have violence and harassment in the workplace policies (Bill 168), these policies outline consequences for violation, which can include termination.
A fundamental, underlying principle of broadening diversity, equity, and inclusion in politics rests on the assumption that the workplace is SAFE. This is currently not the case. It stifles diversity of voice at the local decision-making table, while creating an adverse effect on mental health in the workplace and throughout the community. Once passed, Bill-5 will be applicable to all communities throughout Ontario. To learn more about Bill-5, please visit https://womenofontariosayno.squarespace.com
For more information about the bill's progression in Oxford County, visit Bernia Wheaton for City County's instagram page: @berniawheatoncitycounty