EV SPEAKS OUT
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Yes, Municipal Councillors Can Be New Mothers and Do Their Jobs at the Same Time
Feb 06, 2014
Ottawa, ON: Equal Voice, a national multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women in Canada, is standing by Oshawa municipal councillor Amy England, who is under attack for returning to Council with her infant daughter so that she can breastfeed.
The first term councillor gave birth just before Christmas and advised Council that she would be bringing her infant to Council meetings upon her return. As is the case for countless mothers, Ms. England is breastfeeding her newborn - including at Council meetings as the situation dictates. Shortly after her return, Ms. England was the subject of an anonymous complaint to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) as a result of bringing her newborn to work. An informal Facebook campaign is also circulating that accuses Ms. England of being under the investigation of CAS.
“We congratulate Ms. England on the birth of her daughter and we are standing alongside her as a woman in politics who is also a new mother. The fact that she is being publically scolded for bringing her baby to work underscores the need for women and men- together- to advocate for family friendly policies in Canadian political workplaces - as there are in other countries” says Raylene Lang-Dion, Equal Voice’s National Chair.
Ms. England is the Vice Chair of Health and Social Services and serves as the Council's Youth Advocate. Ms. England has informed EV that the Children’s Aid Society, who is obligated to investigate every complaint, spoke with her at length, indicated they had no concerns and closed the case.
Despite the fact that municipal councils in Canada are believed to be a far more accessible arena for women pursuing politics, the reality is much different. Women comprise just 25 percent of all municipal councillors in Canada – the same percentage as federal Members of Parliament who are women. Furthermore, only 16 percent of Canada’s mayors are female, a lower percentage that most provincial and federal cabinets.
“Nearly every women in politics is constantly juggling their paid work with their family life. Ms. England is in no way different from any other woman in politics just because her baby is present,” notes Nancy Peckford, Equal Voice’s Executive Director. “We do not believe that Ms. England, by participating in Council meeting with her baby, is compromising the safety or well-being of her child - as has been the claim.”
Ms. England’s challenge is certainly not unique as Canada’s political institutions struggle to adapt to the realities of those women and men who are getting elected. New Democrat Member of Parliament Sana Hassainia brought her three month old into the House of Commons in 2012 for a vote, setting off a firestorm of confusion. The Speaker ultimately ruled that babies were welcome in the Chamber. In addition, current Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod came up against a related issue after her election in 2006 when her daughter was just one year old. Surprised that Ontario legislature's sitting hours regularly went late into the evenings, she persuaded her colleagues to change what had been an outdated tradition and unnecessary sacrifice. No one has complained since.
For more information:
Nancy Peckford – 613-292-7941