'It's gotta stop': Council takes aim at making Edmonton safer for women

Edmonton city council is on a quest to make the city safer, especially for women.

Councillor calls out catcalling, street harassment downtown

Edmonton council approved a new initiative to come up with a system for sharing data about sexual and verbal harassment and assault. (CBC)

Edmonton city council is on a quest to make the city safer, especially for women.

Council on Tuesday approved a new initiative that directs city administration to work with Edmonton police and citizens to come up with a system for sharing data about sexual and verbal harassment and assault.

The initiative may involve the city's 311 citizen report line and technologies such as apps that people can use to report unsafe areas and figure out why they are.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said she's heard from many women experiencing harassment.

"We know in our city we have challenges," Esslinger said, adding that Edmonton has one of the highest rates of sexual assaults in Canada. 
Coun. Bev Esslinger spearheaded an initiative for the city and police to gather and share data about unsafe areas in Edmonton. (CBC)

"It's gotta stop."

The findings will be used to make choices on infrastructure, enforcement and education. 

"If we're finding a place that needs lights, let's get lights there." 

Changing attitudes

Esslinger said another key focus of the initiative is to try to change attitudes toward women.

"Catcalling downtown? Is that acceptable?" she asked. "Women in our city are choosing not to go outside when there's a construction shift changing, to go and sit in their car until the men have moved. In our city." 

City council unanimously approves an initiative to create a safer city for women and girls. (CBC)

Along with sexual assault and harassment, she said there's also a high rate of domestic violence in Edmonton.

Esslinger's motion was inspired by discussions at an international conference held in Edmonton in October, called the UN Women's Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls.

Mayor Don Iveson helped Esslinger with the motion, which passed unanimously at a council meeting Tuesday.

"We haven't always built cities with diverse perspectives in mind. In particular, women's voices have been been ignored," said Iveson. "I firmly believe that when cities are safer for women and girls, they are safer for everyone."

City administration is asked to report to council in early 2019 with strategies on improving safety.