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City pledges to fight misogyny, encourage more women to enter politics

City of Cambridge taking steps to ensure more women are encouraged to enter politics
Cambridge council chambers file photo.

The City of Cambridge is taking steps to ensure more women enter politics without fear of facing misogyny and harassment.

Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion Tuesday that supports and encourages women in politics.

Historically women have faced barriers in politics and continue to face harassment and discrimination, Coun. Donna Reid told council as she tabled the motion in support of a recent resolution from the Town of Grimsby that encourages all municipalities in the province and across Canada to promote gender equity. 

"It really hit home with me," said Reid, noting its timing around International Women's Day.

The motion commits the city to "taking steps to ensure that our political environment is inclusive and welcoming to all individuals, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other identity factors."

And follows efforts the city initiated years ago around equity, diversity and inclusivity, Reid said.

"We need to encourage women to become involved in politics."

With four women on council, including the mayor, Reid said she believes Cambridge is fortunate but would like to see it extended. She said she's grateful more women in the city are stepping up to do the work, either by running for office or appearing before council as a delegation.

"I would encourage more women to continue to do that," she said.

Coun. Scott Hamilton, who seconded the motion, said he's been part of discussions around gender biases and feels it's important for men to listen to the lived experiences of women in politics and try to understand it in the context of male privilege. 

"Because there are unconscious biases that do exist, there are systemic biases that do exist and we have to acknowledge patriarchy is very real in our city, in our province and around the world.

"If we want to bring an end to these injustices, we have to bring light to them," he said.

For his part, he said he will continue to encourage women to enter politics while educating men about the importance of women in politics and the value of gender equity.

Mayor Jan Liggett praised the motion, particularly in its recognition of the difference between equality and equity. Equality provides equal access to resources and opportunity, but equity goes further by recognizing different circumstances in efforts to meet the needs of everyone in order to achieve an equal outcome.

Liggett went on to praise the men she's worked with and said throughout her political career she has never experienced anything she recognized as a bias against women.

The motion came to council a week after Canada's Governor General Mary Simon spoke out about the online hate and misogyny she's experienced while in office.

"The reality is that women—particularly those in leadership positions, high‑profile women, Indigenous women and girls, women from ethnic minorities, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals—are threatened every day online and on social media, and in their daily lives as well," she wrote.

"They are subjected to targeted misinformation campaigns and different levels of scrutiny than men in the same positions. Their substantive professional contributions are more likely to be undervalued. Countless reports have confirmed that women not only face more online abuse than their male counterparts, but that the severity of these interactions are markedly worse. And this is not limited to Canada."

The resolution, will be sent to all municipalities to endorse along with the Premier of Ontario, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the city's MP and MPPs and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.