‘I can genuinely tell you that I was concerned for my safety’
MHA Pam Parsons recounts harassment on campaign trail
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.
Pam Parsons was sworn in as an MHA for the district of Harbour Grace-Port de Grave in 2015.