Peaceful protest in Kincardine to shine light on lack of decorum in politics

Organized by community members, the demonstration was held to denounce alleged misogynistic comments made at an earlier council meeting. (Image submitted by Fiona Robertson)

A crowd of about 50 people attended a peaceful protest held outside of Kincardine’s municipal office before Monday night’s council meeting.

Organized by community members Meagan Fair and Cheryl Cottrill, the demonstration was held to denounce alleged misogynistic comments made by Councillor Dave Cuyler to fellow Councillor Laura Haight during a council meeting on April 4th. Its other purpose was to shine a light on the lack of decorum inside the council chambers in general, and the disrespect women in politics face on a regular basis everywhere.

“We’re here to ask for better decorum and better conduct within the municipality, so that the staff feel safe, and that people in the community feel safe to come to council [meetings], discuss ideas, and make the town better,” said Fair. “We deserve better.”

Cottrill says a problem she believes the current council faces is the failure to stick to just talking about “the issues”.

“I think the problem is when they don’t debate issues, they’re attacking people. They don’t have to love each other, nobody’s asking them to like each other. They just have to be respectful.”

Cottrill adds while some community members are advocating for Councillor Cuyler to resign due to this incident, the decision is ultimately his own.

“Resignation is all up to Councillor Cuyler, no one can force him to resign. My hope is that he loves this community enough that he’ll see that his resigning is what’s going to move this council forward in a positive way, and gain back the confidence of the community.”

The municipality’s integrity commissioner is actively investigating the situation. Due to this, council is unable to officially comment on it until the results are brought forward at an upcoming special meeting.

Council was, however, able to hear a delegation regarding the importance of equal representation on council, and the need for more women in politics.

Kincardine resident Sarah Patterson told council Monday night that better representation will lead to better choices that will improve the community as a whole.

“Diverse experiences bring diverse views, and diverse views are usually quite a bit better than a singular view that has been repeated. So, I think it’s about ensuring that all voices are heard and represented so that we can have the best choices and the best options possible.”

Councillor Haight says what happened April 4th was an unfortunate incident, but something positive can come out of it, if it continues to spark a much needed conversation about respect among council and minority groups involved in politics in general.

“This was, in my opinion, somewhat egregious and obvious. But it’s the more subtle issues of sexism and racism that occur that have to be called out. It’s a bigger discussion that we have to have.” Haight adds “this [type of incident] really isn’t unusual, and it’s really unfortunate that attacks are not based on ideas, but they’re based on your gender.”

A consensus shared by many in attendance to the demonstration is that in order to have better representation, more people from different walks of life should consider running for council in the next municipal election, which will occur in October of this year.

“If you’re thinking about running, run. If you think you can improve your community, you should put your name in. It’s a thankless job sometimes, but it’s the most gratifying position to be in,” said Haight.