Committee appointment sparks gender parity debate

By Tyler Marr
January 30, 2018 - 12:00pm Updated: January 30, 2018 - 5:04pm

What should have been a simple rubber stamp on a committee appointment, spiralled into a debate on gender parity in council chambers.

A motion to appoint a male representative to the Community Services Advisory Committee was met with stiff position by Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp. She argued a woman should be appointed to replace the female representative who was stepping down, more so as only four of the 11 members of the committee are women.

“We are losing a woman in one spot, let's replace it and consider gender parity, let's consider diversity,” she said. “I think the city would be well to consider that we want different types of people on each committee.”

Eight residents applied to fill the vacant position. Lennox-Zepp argued she saw no reason her preferred female candidate lacked equal credentials to the male. She expressed a further concern how none of the city’s committees held gender parity.

She wanted others around the table to send the appointment back to the mayor's office for consideration.

The accusation was hastily objected by Mayor Greg Dionne, who said Lennox-Zepp was “out of order” for bringing “gender into the picture.”

“My office does not pick by gender and for you to suggest that I put him on because there should be more men on a committee, I object to that,” he said. “We don’t pick, in this council, by gender. We pick qualified people.”

He said the proposed female candidate was not selected as she expressed a desire to aid in transit and housing decisions, topics not within the scope of the community services advisory committee.

Dionne said a majority of those who applied to fill vacant positions on committees were men, and he too wished there were more women.

“I don’t care if it's a man or a woman or whatever. It is whoever that can fill that void,” he added. “I pick a variety because that is what you want, a variety. I object when you bring up gender.”

Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, who chairs the committee in question, was “disappointed” in Lennox-Zepp’s comments. He said the committee was balanced in a way, as the eight community member appointments were split between men and women. That will change to four women and five men after the new appointment.

Appointments come to council from the mayor’s office, which he believed “have done a great job in making sure the views of the community are represented.”

“To talk about male-female, I think it is wrong. It is more important to think about diversity and get a wide opinion from our community,” he said.

The motion for the male appointment passed 7-1.

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On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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