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Harassment towards regional employees “simply unacceptable”: Durham Region CAO

Durham Region’s CAO Elaine Baxter-Trahair is speaking out on behalf of regional employees who have experienced harassment from the community.

She says while everyone is feeling the pandemic, the harassment of regional employees is “simply unacceptable.”

Baxter-Trahair says those who choose a career in public service often talk about community first and that it’s about creating a quality of life, a safe place to raise a family, and a place where neighbours come together to support one another.

For some employees, such as those in the health department, she says it is more than just a vision.

“It is their duty, under the law, to protect the public from health hazards,” she says, noting she was saddened to hear that some employees – who have been working around the clock to keep us safe and healthy during COVID-19 – are facing increasing incidents of abusive and threatening language.

“This is simply unacceptable,” she continues.

“As Chief Administrative Officer, I have zero tolerance for people using profane, aggressive, abusive, sexist, racist or homophobic language towards our staff,” she states, adding the protection of regional employees is a top priority, and, if required, the appropriate authorities would be contacted.

Baxter-Trahair says the past year has been challenging in many ways, noting people have struggled with mental health, experienced job loss, financial hardship, loneliness, and isolation.

As difficult as these times are, she says these measure were designed to protect one another and enable everyone to once again experience important celebrations, cherish moments, and hug loved ones.

Durham Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle says while work has begun on vaccinating residents in accordance with the province’s vaccine implementation plan, the region continues to manage cases of COVID19 and their high-risk contacts, respond to outbreaks, and conduct inspections to ensure businesses and workplaces are complying with public health measures.

As this work is being done, Kyle says there is “zero tolerance” for inappropriate behaviour and language towards staff.

He notes while most members of the community are willing to do what’s right, those not willing to comply with public health instructions and continue to subject health department staff to abuse and harm will be referred to the appropriate authorities.

“This is not something that I take lightly and will ensure the protection of my staff remains a high priority,” he says.

Baxter-Trahair says the vaccine rollout gives “hope” and as the health department receives vaccine supply from the province, it will be distributed “as quickly and efficiently as possible, according to priority.”

“The only way we will get through this is together. Standing united against COVID-19, supporting each other, and practising patience and kindness,” she says. “We’ve gotten this far, let’s continue to stand together to help keep everyone safe.”