‘I can gen­uinely tell you that I was con­cerned for my safety’

MHA Pam Par­sons re­counts ha­rass­ment on cam­paign trail

The Compass - - News - BY DAVID MA­HER david.ma­her@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: DavidMa­herNL

Lib­eral MHA Pam Par­sons needed help for her cam­paign in Har­bour Grace-Port de Grave. She was open to any­one will­ing to lend a hand - in­clud­ing the man who would come to ha­rass her day in and day out.

Par­sons shared her story last Wed­nes­day, speak­ing on the floor of the House of As­sem­bly in sup­port of a pri­vate mem­ber’s mo­tion brought for­ward by Wind­sor Lake MHA Cathy Ben­nett.

Ben­nett’s mo­tion asked for sup­port for the gov­ern­ment’s new work­place ha­rass­ment pol­icy, call­ing for changes to en­sure “women and oth­ers are pro­tected in all work­places” across the prov­ince.

Par­sons says the man was a sup­porter, but once she won the district nom­i­na­tion his be­hav­iour changed.

“The per­son be­came very pos­ses­sive. They used deroga­tory lan­guage to my gen­der, to my ap­pear­ance. They tried to be­come con­trol­ling to the point they would use hos­tile lan­guage,” Par­sons said.

The man phoned her re­lent­lessly. He left more and more vul­gar mes­sages in her voice­mail daily. She blocked his num­ber, but it didn’t stop him from leav­ing mes­sage af­ter mes­sage.

“My voice­mails were clogged. I had to re­move my voice­mail be­cause the cell­phone car­rier couldn’t pre­vent a per­son from leav­ing mes­sages,” she said.

The per­son was told to stay away, but he con­tin­ued his ha­rass­ment.

“This af­fected my sleep. This was get­ting scary,” she said.

She con­tacted the RCMP, who told him to stay away from her. But they also told Par­sons that his ac­tions didn’t amount to a crime, so there wasn’t much more they could do.

Par­sons says the man’s ha­rass­ing be­hav­iour has calmed down, but still con­tin­ues ev­ery now and again.

She says she wouldn’t have been able to tell her story were it not for Ben­nett bring­ing forth Wed­nes­day’s mo­tion.

She says enough is enough. “I think ev­ery­body, to a de­gree, if not ev­ery­body, ex­pe­ri­ences this in­di­rectly or di­rectly. It’s very com­mon. For so long, this be­hav­iour is shuf­fled un­der the rug, or tol­er­ated even.”

Par­sons says she doesn’t con­sider her­self a vic­tim be­cause she knows that so many peo­ple face far worse in their own work­places. She hopes her story can help oth­ers.

“I’m grate­ful that I’m strong enough to deal with this, and cope with this, and be there for other peo­ple,” she said.

“We al­ways say we don’t have enough women in lead­er­ship roles and in pol­i­tics, but there’s a lot of hur­dles to jump over. Peo­ple have said, ‘Do you think this would be hap­pen­ing to you if you were a man?’”

Ben­nett says she has heard many sto­ries and even ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions. In De­cem­ber 2016, she called a news con­fer­ence to talk about some of the on­line mes­sages she had re­ceived that al­most drew her out of pol­i­tics.

“When I opened my com­ments, I spoke about five dif­fer­ent sto­ries that I’ve heard since I’ve been elected. I think the sto­ries my col­leagues shared this af­ter­noon and the sto­ries that are con­tin­u­ing to be shared are from women and oth­ers who have ex­pe­ri­enced ha­rass­ment, bul­ly­ing or sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place,” Ben­nett said.

“Quite frankly, we need to do some­thing to stop it. As a gov­ern­ment, one of the levers you have is the law. When you change the laws, you make an im­pact.”

Ben­nett’s mo­tion passed unan­i­mously in the House of As­sem­bly.

TELE­GRAM FILE PHOTO

Pam Par­sons was sworn in as an MHA for the district of Har­bour Grace-Port de Grave in 2015.

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