A group called Women Watching Nanaimo started an online petition called Nanaimo Women Deserve Better on Change.org last week. (The News Bulletin)

Petition perceives sexist statements by Nanaimo city councillor

A group called Women Watching Nanaimo started an online petition called Nanaimo Women Deserve Better

A petition is circulating calling for a Nanaimo city councillor to apologize for language perceived as sexist.

A group called Women Watching Nanaimo started an online petition called Nanaimo Women Deserve Better on Change.org last week. The accompanying letter addresses Nanaimo city council, specifically asking that Coun. Jim Kipp apologize for statements made to former councillor Wendy Pratt at a meeting Nov. 21.

“There’s your faces again. You’re beautiful. You’re such an esthetically pleasing person when you make faces,” Kipp said. “You turned your back when [another councillor] was talking. The man’s harmed and you don’t give [an expletive], woman.”

The comments came during discussion of a leaked e-mail from Mayor Bill McKay that included personal opinions of all councillors.

Pratt has since quit as a councillor, and Coun. Diane Brennan, in an interview with the News Bulletin earlier this month, speculated that sexism was a contributing factor in her colleague’s resignation.

Rebecca Chan, the founder and administrator of Women Watching Nanaimo, said she’s hopeful Kipp will publicly apologize at a council meeting next month and while she doesn’t expect that will happen, she said the petition could start a conversation.

“This is one way of … getting a spotlight on this weird, misogynistic culture that we have at city hall,” said Chan. “I think it’s been normalized and I think we’ve sort of accepted it and I’m not willing to let that sit anymore.”

She said Kipp’s comments weren’t just a matter of a disagreement between politicians with different opinions.

“Regardless of someone’s gender, you should be able to be civil to them regardless of how you agree or disagree with them,” Chan said.

She said councillors aren’t just individuals; they represent the city and that’s why she’s asking for accountability.

Chan said she’s perceived sexism in her own communication with city councillors and she thinks Nanaimo’s civic leaders need to be more inclusive and respectful.

“I’m just looking for women to feel safe talking to council, because right now it’s a very fraught environment,” she said. “So I’m looking for everyone to be able to engage comfortably with city hall.”

Kipp did not respond to a request for comment.

The petition had more than 200 signatures after a week. To view the petition, please click here.

-files from Karl Yu