Proposed by Orleans Member of Provincial Parliament Stephen Blais last August, the Bill was born out of Blais’s experience on the Ottawa city council having witnessed councillor Rick Chiarelli face little consequences after behaving inappropriately toward three female colleagues in 2019.
Though Ottawa took the harshest stance possible, that only amounted to suspending Chiarelli’s pay for three months for each incident, the maximum penalty under the current Municipal Act. Chiarelli continued sitting on council until the 2022 municipal election when he chose not to seek reelection.
Bill 5 seeks to address issues of accountability by requiring councillors to comply with the sam work=place violence and harassment policies of the municipality they represent, allowing the Integrity Commissioner to apply to the court to vacate a councillor’s seat should they fail to comply, and restrict councillors whose seat has been vacated from seeking re-election immediately.
“Consequences need to be more severe than a paid suspension and women should no longer have to carry the shame of unwanted sexual advancements from their leaders in the workplace. Leaders must earn trust and respect and power should be used to advance society, not keep in in the Middle Ages,” said Lajoie.
Mayor Lajoie brought her support for Bill 5 to Casselman municipal council during their last meeting and hopes to have the council formally endorse the Bill during the next meeting.
Casselman would be the first municipality in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell to offer their endorsement, and, apart from Ottawa, one of the only in eastern Ontario.
Lajoie is also joining Marie-Noëlle Lanthier, president of Leadership Féminin Prescott-Russell, on May 31 at Queen’s Park to pressure the Ontario legislature to vote in favour of Bill 5.