In the News:

What does harassment and bullying of women in politics look like?

Body language, disparaging comments all examples of workplace bullying

CBC News, April 29, 2018

With this week's news that Newfoundland and Labrador veteran politician Eddie Joyce is being accused of harassment of at least one female MHA, it raises the question — what form can harassment of women take in the political sphere if it's not sexual?

According to Linda Ross, president and CEO of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, bullying against women in the workplace can take many forms, but it's usually ongoing behaviour demeaning someone.

"It's just overall disparaging comments around an individual. Whether it's a personality or body size or body shape, challenging any ideas you have," she told CBC's Here & Now.

"Women relate stories of being told to get back in the kitchen, or to go home and do their knitting and these kinds of comments that say, 'You don't belong here, this isn't a place for you.'"

Bullying isn't something that happens only in the schoolyard, with a bigger kid demanding lunch money from a smaller one.

In adult professional life, and especially politics, bullying and harassment can take a much more sophisticated form and is often conveyed in subtler, but still disparaging, ways.

One such example is the body language that male politicians often exhibit in legislatures when a woman from the opposing party speaks, according to Ross.

"They'll sort of slouch back in the chair almost as if to be dismissive of whatever she has to say."

Ross said the argument that politics is meant to be combative and aggressive shouldn't be used as justification for harassing behaviour.

She said it's time for governments to develop clear policies and codes of conduct for elected officials, so that there are consequences when members cross the line from just being passionate about a cause into outright bullying or harassment.

Ross said having that type of legislation is the only way to ensure incidents aren't swept under the rug. With the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, she said people are just going to keep coming forward with individual complaints until a proper process is put in place.

"It's been going on for far too long, I think there's a lot of us that feel the light is being shone on that kind of harassing behaviour and it has to stop."

Shannie Duff to get St. John’s highest honour

The Telegram by David Maher, March 12, 2018

Former mayor Shannie Duff will receive the highest award St. John’s can bestow: the Freedom of the City.

St. John’s city council voted unanimously to give the award to Duff, who spent 36 years serving in various levels of government, primarily on the municipal scale.


“I couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient,” said Mayor Danny Breen, who served on council with Duff from 2009 to 2013.

The motion was brought forward by Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary, who participated in the council meeting via telephone while she recovers from surgery.

?"She has given her life to public service,” O’Leary said.

Duff was first elected to St. John’s city council in 1977. She became deputy mayor of the city in 1982.

Duff has been heralded as a heroine of heritage properties in St. John’s, particularly in the downtown. She is a founding member of the Newfoundland Historic Trust, the St. John’s Heritage Foundation, St. John’s Clean and Beautiful, the Quidi Vidi-Rennie’s River Development Foundation, Equal Voice NL, the Eastern Regional Health Care Foundation and the Bannerman Park Foundation.

She was also the founding chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of Habitat for Humanity, where she later received a volunteer of the year award for her contributions.

She helped the city develop its first ever city plan in 1980, chairing the steering committee that put it together.

In 1989, Duff became MHA for St. John’s East, but held the title only briefly. By November 1990, she ran for mayor of St. John’s after the retirement of John Murphy, another recipient of the Freedom of the City. Her only time outside of an elected office from 1977 to 2013 was when she lost the next mayoral election to Murphy, who came out of retirement to run. She was back around the council table in 1997 and became deputy mayor once more in 2009 until her retirement from municipal politics in 2013.

In 2003, Duff was named to the Order of Canada for her outstanding community service. She has also received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Memorial University for her public service.

The Freedom of the City has been awarded 15 times in the city’s history. While a number of awards cover large organizations, such as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Church Lads Brigade, Duff will be the first woman to independently receive the award.

Duff will be recognized at a ceremony to be announced at a later date, which the city has earmarked $10,000 toward.

As a recipient of the Freedom of the City, Duff will be able to address council during its regular meetings, though hold no vote. She will have an open invitation to all events hosted at city hall. She will also get a decorative scroll containing the motion from city council, and a plaque with the city crest noting the award.


Judy Foote named lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador

Ctv News, March 20, 2018

Long-time Liberal MP Judy Foote has been named lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, months after leaving politics to focus on her family and her health.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment Tuesday, making Foote the first woman to serve as the Queen's representative in the province.

"Judy has dedicated her career to public service and making a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians," he said in a statement.

"Her work ethic and strength of character make her the perfect choice to be the new lieutenant-governor for Newfoundland and Labrador. I know she will continue to serve with passion and commitment, and make important contributions to the future of her province and the country."

The veteran politician stepped down from politics last year after treatment for breast cancer, twice surviving the disease. But she revealed last summer that she inherited the cancer-causing BRCA2 gene and testing showed she passed it on to her two adult daughters and a son.

At an emotional news conference attended by her children and four grandchildren last August, Foote said the revelation put things in perspective for her and her family.

"I love my family ... It's my decision to be with them, where I need to be and where they need me to be," she told reporters in St. John's.

At the time, she said retiring from politics had seemed "far away" last April when she took a leave of absence from the Public Works and Government Services Department. But Foote said the idea firmed up over the summer as the resumption of Parliament last September loomed closer and she contemplated flying to Ottawa every Sunday, returning every Thursday or Friday and spending every weekend driving around the riding.

Foote has spent 28 years in politics -- eight as communications director for former premier Clyde Wells, 11 as a member of the provincial house of assembly and nine years as an MP.

She was elected as an MP in 2008 and in the 2015 election, won almost 82 per cent of the vote in her Bonavista-Burin-Trinity riding -- the highest vote share in the country. She was then named minister of public services and procurement.

Foote was also responsible for the review of Canada Post's decision to end home mail delivery and the government's massive shipbuilding program.

She stickhandled an unprecedented, confidential inquiry into complaints by two female New Democrat MPs that they'd been sexually harassed by two male Liberal MPs.

Born in Grand Bank, Foote served as minister in several provincial portfolios, including the departments of Development and Rural Renewal, Industry, Trade and Technology, and Education.

"Ms. Foote has ... long been an activist for social and economic change in Newfoundland and Labrador," Premier Dwight Ball said in a statement.

"As a friend and former colleague, I am tremendously proud to see Ms. Foote appointed as the first female lieutenant governor of this province. She is, and will continue to be, a role model to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Foote replaces Frank Fagan as lieutenant-governor, a post of at least five years.



St. John's votes 5 women into municipal council making political history by winning half the council seats


Voters elected a council of 50 per cent women, for 1st time in city's history

Yoga teacher, musician, mom: The new faces of gender parity on St. John's city council

CBC News, Oct 26, 2017, Chris O'Neill Yates

Navigating the treacherous,snowy sidewalks of St. John's with a newborn baby in her arms gave Maggie Burton an idea: the city needed to better accommodate families.

"Accessibility and a family-friendly city was the [last] straw for me, and I just really wanted to get out there," said 26-year-old Burton, a musician and management consultant who is the youngest member of St. John's city council on record.

'I asked myself, should I stop complaining and put myself forward?' - Hope Jamieson

Burton is one of five women who made political history by winning half the council seats in the municipal election last month, bringing gender parity to the council for the first time.

Their win is also a victory for Equal Voice, an Ottawa-based group that encourages women to enter politics and supports them with campaign help.

Burton defeated a well-known male incumbent, garnering more votes than any other candidate in the four at-large seats.

"We knew there was a lot of discontent with the old council," said Burton.

Of 15 major Canadian cities, only Vancouver has a greater proportion of women on its city council than St. John's, with five out of nine. Victoria and Saskatoon are on par with St. John's. In Atlantic Canada, St. John's outstrips Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton and Fredericton by sizable margins.

From no women to half women

The election of 50 per cent women in St. John's is all the more remarkable because in the previous municipal election, no woman won a seat.  However, in a byelection in 2016, Sheilagh O'Leary — now the deputy mayor — gained a spot on council. 

Hope Jamieson, 28, a yoga teacher and single mother, believes that voters elected the women to council precisely because none were elected in 2013. She believes municipal politics suffers when the perspective of women is absent.

Newly elected councillor Maggie Burton, left, pictured with Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary, is the youngest member of St. John's city council on record, at 26. (Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC News)

In their campaigns, the female candidates focused on fiscal accountability and transparency, including a suggestion that council appoint a municipal auditor general to scrutinize council spending.

Both Jamieson and Burton say that the previous council lacked a strong voice on social housing, public transit and issues facing seniors and single-parent families.

"I asked myself, should I stop complaining and put myself forward?" said Jamieson. "And here I am."

The local chapter of Equal Voice pushed hard to recruit electable female candidates and to raise their profiles in both social media and in the mainstream media.

'We knew there was a lot of discontent with the old council.' - Maggie Burton

"It's good to see a yoga teacher, a musician ... because they're going to speak to issues that previously haven't been represented around the council table," said Lori Lee Oates, chair of Equal Voice NL.

Jamieson says being a young single mother gave her credibility and allowed her to connect with a demographic that is often unrepresented in politics.

"If you could vote for someone who honestly knows what your day-to-day life looks like and wants to bring that voice to the table … I think that resonated," said Jamieson.

Social media boost

Oates said another reason so many women got elected was because they "ruled social media."

Jamiesion admitted it helped her get elected because she did not have the money to mount a high-profile campaign but was still able to reach voters. 

Burton began her social media campaign in the spring but also used traditional methods such as campaign posters because, she says, "Not everyone is on the internet."

Burton, who had a team of 75 volunteers, maintains that old-style door-knocking and listening to voters is still a necessary part of any successful election campaign.

She says the female candidates' efforts got a lot of young people engaged in the political process.

"Now we have a ton of people who are empowered and looking to work on campaigns in the future, so I think this speaks well for a new generation of strong leadership," she said.


25% women: Gains, but no equal voice in legislature

'Big responsibility' for lone woman in PC caucus

By Marilyn Boone, CBC News Posted: Dec 02, 2015

Women will be outnumbered in the new House of Assembly three-to-one and advocates for gender parity say parties have to try harder to recruit female candidates who can win.

"We know when qualified woman are on the ballot, women can win," said Lynn Hammond, who has worked in communications for both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties.

Hammond and political scientist Amanda Bittner told CBC on election night that they would like to see more female faces in the legislature. 

"Not so good" is how Bittner described the 2015 election results which saw 10 women elected, compared to 30 men.

She said that falls short of the 30 percent needed to "effect change."

However, there are more women now than in 2011 when eight were elected — just one-sixth of 48 MHAs.


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Thanks also to the Government of Canada (Status of Women & Canadian Heritage) for their financial support.