Nfld. & Labrador

Brenda Seymour gets apology from Spaniard's Bay council

Town of Spaniard's Bay has issued a formal apology to volunteer firefighter and town councillor Brenda Seymour, the woman at the centre of a scandal involving the all-volunteer fire brigade.

News release says town does not condone or tolerate harassment, mistreatment

Brenda Seymour, a volunteer firefighter and town councillor in Spaniard's Bay, received an apology from the mayor Tuesday. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The Town of Spaniard's Bay has issued a formal apology to volunteer firefighter and town councillor Brenda Seymour, the woman at the centre of a scandal involving the all-volunteer fire brigade.

"They have done a marvelous job here this morning in wording this," Seymour told CBC Radio's On The Go Tuesday.  

"I feel like they have addressed me as a resident of the town, and they treated me the way any other resident should be treated in this position."

Mayor Tony Menchions offered the apology in a news release issued Tuesday.

"On behalf of the Spaniard's Bay town council, I apologize to Brenda Seymour for instances of sexual harassment which she has endured. We do not condone, nor tolerate any such behaviour," Menchions said.

Seymour reacted positively to the latest development.

"I'm impressed with the progress that was made," she told CBC News.

"I appreciate the town extending their apology to me and I accept that."

The apology signifies a major thaw in the tension that has rocked the Conception Bay North community for the past week.

Seymour ignited a dispute that caught the country's attention after levelling accusations of sexual harassment and mistreatment during her time as the lone female member of the Spaniard's Bay volunteer fire department.

The release also said the town has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy on harassment of any kind "and shall ensure that all town workers and volunteers operate in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment."

Mass resignations last week

Council has also begun the process of rebuilding the fractured fire department, from which 20 men resigned en masse last week. 

Menchions announced that applications are now being taken for volunteers, and said that there was a clear message to females.

"Council promises a safe and respectful environment and supports gender equity," the release reads.

The town has been without a functioning fire department for a full week, with the neighbouring Bay Roberts department on standby to provide assistance.

Bay Roberts Chief Adam Norman said no emergency calls have been received.

Ex-chief Victor Hiscock and most of the Spaniard's Bay volunteer firefighters turned in their emergency pagers during an explosive council meeting on Jan. 19.

The exodus followed allegations by Seymour that Hiscock was mismanaging the department, and that she had been exposed to sexual harassment.

The revelation that a guest instructor played a pornographic video during a training session in the town nearly two years ago came to symbolize the controversy.

Seymour was the only female in a room filled with men when the video was played. 

She said her mistreatment also included incidents of intimidation, threats and rejection from her male counterparts.

The story attracted national attention, and focused a spotlight on the small community and issues such as gender discrimination and sexual misconduct.

'A very positive thing'

Seymour said the attention the story has brought to both herself and Spaniard's Bay has brought a lot of pain but exposed an important issue.

"Since things escalated, it's been a whirlwind of activity, and it hasn't all been negative," she said. "In fact, it's been totally opposite. The resounding effect I'm getting right through this province is one of support, and it's one of encouragement for others.

"I'm getting very positive messages, and I think that we've made groundbreaking headway here. I can't help but think this is a very positive thing out of a very negative one."

Seymour said that the town council felt the need to address the situation in the best way possible, and the apology was an important part of moving forward. 

"We kept level heads, and we generally agreed that we were going to work toward some movement forward, and it prevailed," she said. "It came with the result of this clear statement today from our municipality."

Seymour said she never demanded an apology and now wants to focus on implementing structure and rebuilding the fire department.

She said she will also stay on as a firefighter.

Ex-firefighter blames Seymour

In a lengthy Facebook post Tuesday, former Spaniard's Bay firefighter Ross Snow placed the blame for the controversy on Seymour and accused her of bullying other members of the department.

"The firefighters resigned to speak out against the harassment and stop the bullying that's been going on since Brenda got back on council," Snow said.

He said that those involved should be placed on temporary leave until a solution is found to allow the fire department to resume its work.

"Allow the firefighters to assume their roles and provide much needed service, and council to resume their roles, and run our beautiful town accordingly," he said.