Apol­ogy sought

Coun­cil­lor of­fended with how is­sue han­dled at re­cent meet­ing

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

A Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity coun­cil­lor is crit­i­ciz­ing the han­dling of a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing where an­other mem­ber’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions to sit on an ex­ter­nal com­mit­tee were ques­tioned and is call­ing for an apol­ogy.

At the out­set of Thurs­day’s bud­get ses­sion, Dist. 11 Coun. Ken­dra Coombes in­tro­duced a point of priv­i­lege re­gard­ing the ex­change that oc­curred in the coun­cil cham­ber last month when the nom­i­na­tion of Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall to the re­gional solid waste com­mit­tee was de­bated, ver­sus a more se­nior mem­ber of coun­cil­lor who pre­vi­ously sat on the com­mit­tee but who wasn’t nom­i­nated for the po­si­tion.

“Dur­ing the coun­cil meet­ing, fel­low coun­cil­lors used sex­ist, in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and un­pro­fes­sional lan­guage,” Coombes said. “Al­though the dis­cus­sion cen­tered around Coun. McDougall, I felt per­son­ally in­sulted and was af­fected by the sit­u­a­tion.”

In par­tic­u­lar, Coombes raised Mayor Ce­cil Clarke’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion as he chaired the meet­ing, say­ing she be­lieved he “failed to in­ter­vene to en­sure deco­rum and par­lia­men­tary be­hav­ior” was up­held.

She added she be­lieves that McDougall, Dist. 2 Coun. Ear­lene MacMullin and her­self, as well as staff and the cit­i­zens of the CBRM are owed an apol­ogy.

As Coombes raised the is­sue as a point of priv­i­lege, Clarke will re­port back to coun­cil with a writ­ten re­sponse.

The in­ci­dent sparked a great deal of pub­lic com­men­tary.

“I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions with my var­i­ous col­leagues … there’s a lot of good com­ing out of what hap­pened last time. I feel like com­mu­ni­ca­tion has opened up a lit­tle bit,” McDougall told re­porters after the meet­ing, say­ing she pre­ferred to fo­cus on how to move ahead.

“It’s hon­estly been emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing as well, so it’s some­thing that you kind of want to move past from, keep work­ing, I mean, th­ese are my col­leagues for the next four years, I know they’ve been hounded quite se­verely,” she said.

The in­ci­dent also demon­strated the power of so­cial me­dia, McDougall said.

“It took me com­pletely of­f­guard, but the con­ver­sa­tion have kept go­ing from there, peo­ple have reached out as far as Al­berta, On­tario, ladies who are in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics, who are in pol­i­tics them­selves, it’s been in­cred­i­ble for shar­ing in that net­work of sup­port and em­pow­er­ing one an­other,” she said.

McDougall ac­knowl­edged it was dif­fi­cult to sit through the meet­ing “and have peo­ple cut you down,” when she was quite con­fi­dent in her abil­ity to sit on the com­mit­tee.

Coombes said, how­ever, in her view the is­sue hasn’t been re­vis­ited by any of the coun­cil­lors in­volved.

“It was never ad­dressed to us, no one’s ever said … not even, ‘I’m sorry this hap­pened,’ not even that lip ser­vice, there were no apolo­gies ever made, no ac­knowl­edge­ment of what oc­curred,” she said.

Coombes said she wants to see the mat­ter re­solved by coun­cil.

“It’s hard to sit there in a room and have that hang over your head and ev­ery time I go out to the gro­cery store, down­town, for a walk, peo­ple call me up for one is­sue and they say, ‘By the way, what hap­pened?’ I get on so­cial me­dia and it’s still there,” she said.

A ses­sion has been set up for coun­cil­lors on par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dures to take place next week, but Coombes said she would like to see more ex­ten­sive di­ver­sity and sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing take place.

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