Nicholas Goldberg: Jeering, screaming and upending the City Council is arrogant, irresponsible and ineffective. How does it work?
It works because it doesn’t work.
When a woman on the council made a complaint that led to the dismantling of a women’s clothing store, she did so with this: “This is a woman’s clothes store.”
When two women on the council tried to put a condom on display at a city hall exhibit (in response to a complaint that a condom had been left unattended, as happened with women’s clothing), they did so with this: “This is a condom. If we put it anywhere near a woman, she’ll be offended.”
The city council and city administration have now gone to great lengths to protect young people, and the message is that you don’t get to be young.
And they’re using the bully pulpit to shame and intimidate people into silence on a sexual harassment complaint.
For a city with a population of 300,000 people, there are very few sexual harassment statutes in Toronto. One of them, laid out in the Human Rights Code Part 1, says that a person has a right to feel safe while exercising their right to be free from discrimination, harassment and assault.
On Monday, the city council will hear a report on sexual harassment allegations against former city manager John Tory, who was appointed by his brother, mayor John Tory, and who resigned in July under pressure from the mayor’s office. Tory is to speak at the council meeting.
Now, let’s imagine that the issue of sexual harassment is not of the top priority in the city of Toronto.
And let’s say that two young women decide to use a street corner to ask for free condoms to be left in front of them.
When asked why they did this, one young woman responded with: “I don’t feel safe.”
This response seems reasonable to the two women and, in fact, is the same response offered to many of the women who made sexual harassment complaints to the city over the past five years.
“I can’t ask for