Nfld. & Labrador

'This is endemic': Rally in St. John's against sexual harassment

Roughly 50 people in St. John’s braved the snow on Saturday to rally against sexual harassment in light of the recent controversy in Spaniard’s Bay.
The rally on Sunday was organized by SPAAT, a local feminist action group. (CBC)

Roughly 50 people in St. John's braved the snow on Saturday to rally against sexual harassment in light of the recent controversy in Spaniard's Bay.

"This is not a small town issue — and it's not a Newfoundland issue," said Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, who helped organize the event.

The rally was held in front of city hall by the local feminist activist group SPAAT.

"We're here to let people know that this is endemic to our workplaces, our universities and our schools and to try and break the silence around sexual harassment and support victims of sexual harassment."

The rally was inspired by Brenda Seymour, a firefighter in Spaniard's Bay who has alleged sexual harassment against her male colleagues.

Seymour spoke at the rally, calling for better policy in government and other organizations.

Carmella Gray-Cosgrove of SPAAT says that sexual harassment is a widespread issue that doesn't just exist in Spaniard's Bay. (CBC)

"We see the need for policy and procedure. It's a broad-based issue and we're looking for blanket policy across the country," Seymour said.

Ranee Sharpe, who teaches women's self-defence, agreed that governments need to create and enforce better policy around sexual harassment so that victims have support.

"I do feel like sexual harassment is still an issue, because people who are sexually harassed are shut up so quickly," said Sharpe.

"We're really encouraged to not speak about our experience because people don't want to change their behaviour, don't want to acknowledge their position of power. I think the silence is what really gives permission to sexually harass people."

Seymour said she's pleased that the Town of Spaniard's Bay has issued her an apology, and that the fire department is developing policies around sexual harassment.

People at the rally on Saturday called for government and other organizations to create and enforce better policies around sexual harassment. (CBC)