British Columbia

The right to bare arms: Women at B.C. Legislature told to cover up

A dress code debate at British Columbia's legislature has prompted some women to roll up their sleeves in protest.

At least 3 women have been told by sergeant-at-arms staff to cover their arms in the legislature hallways

Several reporters working in the B.C. Legislature decided to protest the rule by showing up to work baring their arms. (Dirk Meissner/Canadian Press)

A dress code debate at British Columbia's legislature has prompted some women to roll up their sleeves in protest.

Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Randy Ennis says members of his office's staff have been enforcing a decades-old rule about proper attire at the legislature

On Thursday, several female reporters and political staffers showed up to work at the B.C. Legislature in short sleeves in protest.

The day before, a senior government staffer says she was stopped in the hallway by a security officer and told to cover up because her cap-sleeve blouse was unprofessional.

Since then, three other women have reported that they were told they don't have a right to bare arms or that they were dressed inappropriately. 

Shannon Waters, a reporter with B.C. Today, was among the women joining in the "bare-arms" protest.

"It seems really silly to me. I don't think that what I'm wearing is unprofessional or distracting," she said, "I think we all present ourselves professionally at all times really."

Waters said it's objectionable that somehow a woman's arms are inappropriate or unprofessional.

Green Party MLA Sonia Fursteanu posted on Twitter describing a situation where one of her staff was told to wear a slip under her dress, because the dress was clinging to her legs as she walked. 

"Heaven forbid people realize she has limbs under her skirt! The women in this building are here to work, not dress for outdated rule."

Deputy Premier Carole James called for change as she revealed a sleeveless blouse under her blazer. 

"I think we all know this is a professional environment and people dress for business clothing in the workplace, and I think it's ridiculous that we have people policing that," she said. 

Speaker Darryl Plecas has called for a review of the dress code, but as it stands, the current rules of no short sleeves policy will continue. 

Plecas issued a memo to all staff in the legislature building on Thursday,

it states that "the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia has consistently applied a "conservative contemporary approach" to dress codes in the Parliament Buildings, as first articulated in a decision of Deputy Speaker Davidson on July 21, 1980.

"For an individual who identifies as a woman, this would typically include a business suit, dress with sleeves or a skirt with a sweater or blouse; jackets or cardigans are not necessarily required." 


CBC's Victoria legislative reporter is in the group photo. In light of this she has not and will not be involved in coverage of this story or issue.


Letter from the Speaker outlining legislature dress code

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With files from Canadian Press

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