By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
During city council’s regular meeting on Oct. 16, Councillor Amy McQuaid-England claims that during her time in office, she has repeatedly been the victim of sexual harassment.
Ahead of the council business for the night, Councillor McQuaid-England, inspired by the ongoing #metoo social media campaign galvanized by actress Alyssa Milano triggered by the scandal surrounding Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the growing list of sexual misconduct allegations being levied against him.
The young female councillor says there have been multiple instances of sexual harassment during her career in politics.
“I have been inappropriately hit on, I’ve been asked to sit on people’s laps, I’ve had comments made about my appearance,” she said, adding that she has repeatedly encountered men “who have used their power to do things that are completely inappropriate.”
The #metoo campaign, aimed at encouraging women to share the #metoo message if they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment has taken over social media. Over 40,000 people have replied to Milano’s initial tweet making the call for people to speak out, and the hashtag has been used over 325,000 times.
Councillor McQuaid-England called on her male counterparts to become part of the solution.
“Tonight I challenge my male colleagues…if you are aware of a male colleague who is using his power to sexually harass woman, you need to stand up and you need to say something,” she said.
When asked after the meeting, Mayor John Henry says he had no knowledge of the incidents or allegations mentioned by Councillor McQuaid-England.
“Normally, I would know if there was a problem, and I always make myself available,” he said. “There has been some challenges from members of council, not just Councillor McQuaid-England, with some folks in the community that might have taken more of an interest in the past.”
Now, the mayor says he will be following up with Councillor McQuaid-England to figure out what needs to be done.
“I’m concerned that she spoke that way tonight because I don’t know why,” he said. “I will ask if there’s something that I need to know because I’m obligated because I heard something tonight that bothers me, but I will pick the appropriate time to do that and just ask if she’s okay.”
With that said, the mayor adds that he has noticed a change in workplace etiquette in recent years.
“I have seen a real change in how people have conversations now,” he says. “People have gained a better knowledge that sometimes it’s just inappropriate to say things.”