The following was a public statement read by Sooke Mayor Maja Tait at the opening of the June 27, 2016 regular Council meeting (SPN Takeaways available here). Links to specific District policies have been added to and below the statement; references to external material have been added below the statement. -SPN
“The District of Sooke respects the rights and interests of all individuals and as a matter of Council policy and provincial law is committed to providing a working environment free of personal harassment. Under provincial law and Council policies, the District is obligated to make every reasonable effort to ensure that no municipal volunteer, employee, officer or Council member is subjected to personal harassment or bullying, and the District considers complaints of harassment to be serious. The District will take disciplinary measures, corrective action or any other appropriate action as is necessary and as is provided for or required under provincial law or Council policies.
“A number of harassment complaints have recently come to my attention as Mayor of the District of Sooke. These involve harassment of District officers and employees by members of the public, contrary to the District’s formal Anti-Bullying and Harassment policy and provincial WorkSafeBC regulations.
“Council Policy 7.10 expressly provides under section 1.1 that Council members have a responsibility to be proactive to ensure that the workplace remains free from harassment and bullying. Council members must ensure that harassment is not allowed, condoned or ignored.
“Personal harassment includes any objectionable comment that has the purpose or effect of intimidating or isolating an individual. Harassment takes place when any reasonable person ought to have known such behavior would be objectionable or unwelcome. Unfortunately, professional employees of the municipality are not in a position to speak out or effectively defend themselves in the context of a public Council meeting.
“If a member of the public has a complaint or criticism about a Council member, officer, employee or volunteer of the municipality, there is a due process** for making the complaint or criticism and having it addressed by Council or by management, as applicable.
“From this point on, I as Mayor, and the members of Council, will not countenance or condone untrue or rude public attacks on Council members, officers, employees are volunteers of the municipality. Accordingly, in the future, I will take it upon myself as Mayor and encourage my fellow Council members to stand up for our employees and defend them in public meetings, and not to amplify any harassment that is coming from a member of the public. At the same time, the Council and management of the District will rigorously address any criticisms or complaints that are formally lodged with the municipality in regard to any persons who are elected or appointed to act on behalf of the municipality.
“In regard to specific harassment complaints that I have received, these are being processed in accordance with the Anti-Bullying and Harassment policy and any offending member of the public will be dealt with further to the policy and applicable laws.”
**Due Process: From Teresa Sullivan, CAO: “Complaints must be put in writing to the Mayor and Council and the CAO.” The Contact Information for everyone at the District of Sooke, including their mailing address, can be found online here.
- WorksafeBC on Bullying and Harassment
- District’s formal Anti-Bullying and Harassment policy
- Council Policy 7.10 Code of Ethics
- District of Sooke, Contacts