Premier to seek alternate town hall venue after club's men-only board draws backlash

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is looking for a new town hall venue in Windsor after a men-only board policy at the initial meeting location drew backlash online.

The Caboto Club is known to have had a men-only board member policy for many years

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is seeking a new location for her town hall event in Windsor, scheduled for Feb. 15. (Chris Young/ The Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is looking for a new town hall venue in Windsor after a men-only board policy at the initial proposed location drew backlash online.

The Ontario Town Hall meeting was originally to be held at the Caboto Club — known to have a men-only board member policy for many years.

The choice was controversial for some, including Sally Blyth, who posted to Facebook explaining why she decided not to attend the premier's town hall.

"As a woman involved in many community issues here in Windsor I will not be going to this talk," wrote Blyth. "Unlike all other Italian clubs in the city the Caboto Club does not allow women to become board members."

Information on town hall in Windsor posted to Facebook sparks debate over having it held at the Caboto Club. (Facebook)

In a statement sent to CBC News, a spokesperson for the premier said once the club's policy came to their attention staff began looking for an alternate location.

"Women make up an integral part of our economy and society and, as you know, Premier Wynne is committed to supporting a fair, competitive and prosperous Ontario for everyone," read the statement. "That commitment extends to working with partners who reflect these values of equality and inclusiveness, therefore a change in venue was sought."

Women 'never allowed' as board members

Blyth, who describes herself as a friend of the Women's Studies program at the University of Windsor, said she wanted to hold an event at the Caboto Club but was told "in no uncertain terms that women would never be allowed to be board members."

"Needless to say we moved our event. They did not care," she said.

The premier's proposed town hall event also drew the ire of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party. MPP Lisa MacLeod called for the premier to cancel the event.

Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod called on the premier to cancel the town hall. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

"What kind of message does this send to little girls that the Premier of Ontario is speaking at club where women are viewed as second-rate?" she asked in a statement.

Members must be male and Italian

Windsor's Giovanni Caboto Club was founded in 1924. It is Southwestern Ontario's largest and oldest Italian club.

In 2014, the club's general manager at that time confirmed to CBC News its constitution states members must be male and of Italian descent.

(Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

CBC News reached out to the Caboto Club for comment but had not received a reply at publication time.

The town hall remains scheduled for Feb. 15 at 7:00 p.m., at a new location still to be determined.