Ottawa

Chiarelli complainants petition to unseat councillors guilty of inappropriate behaviour

A new petition, launched by women who came forward about Coun. Rick Chiarelli's inappropriate behaviour, is seeking changes to Ontario's Municipal Act.

Women want law changed to allow expulsion for sexual harassment, violence

Coun. Rick Chiarelli enters the council chamber on November 2019. A new petition launched by women who came forward about the councillor's inappropriately behaviour is seeking changes to the Ontario's Municipal Act. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Three of the women who came forward about Coun. Rick Chiarelli's inappropriate behaviour in the workplace have launched a petition seeking changes to Ontario's Municipal Act to allow for an elected official to be removed from office for egregious behaviour.

Two separate integrity commissioner reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers and commenting on their bodies.

Ottawa's commissioner recommended some of the strictest sanctions be brought against Chiarelli. 

Council voted to suspend Chiarelli's pay for 15 months and demanded he resign. 

They couldn't force him to resign, and he hasn't.

"He's still my city councillor right now," said Nancy O'Brien, who used to work in the councillor's office and provided sworn testimony to the commissioner. 

"I live in College Ward. He's still in a position of power."

Chiarelli has denied all allegations

Act missing 'accountability piece' 

The petition, addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, asks for a legal framework to be created that allows members of municipal councils be removed "for occupational health and safety violations related to emotional or sexual harassment and physical or sexual violence."

According to the petition, mechanisms are in place to unseat a councillor for a number of reasons, including being absent from meetings, conflict of interest violations or being convicted of specific crimes outlined under the Municipal Elections Act.

But it doesn't address abuses of power involving exploiting people for personal gain or as a way to protect women from being sexually assaulted or harassed.

"It doesn't address egregious behaviour," O'Brien said. "So it kind of, in my opinion, almost enables a toxic environment or sexual harassment because the accountability piece just isn't there." 

The petition will be sent to the legislative assembly in early April. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

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