Backers of embattled firefighter and town councillor Brenda Seymour made their presence known at the Spaniard’s Bay Municipal Building Saturday afternoon.
Organized by the St. John’s branch of the Smash Patriarchy: An Action Team, the rally today was significantly smaller than the rally held Thursday evening in support of the former members of the town’s fire department.
Where the firefighters received support in the hundreds, today’s demonstration drew just over a dozen people. Some were from Spaniard’s Bay, but most were from outside the community.
There was a different feeling around the rally as well. Some vehicles slowed down considerably and kept a close watch on the proceedings, while a trio of snowmobiles twice passed in front of the rally despite a lack of snow on the parking lot.
The backdrop for the rally of support was a planned meeting between representatives of the Department of Municipal Affairs and the town council. Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons was also on hand for the meeting.
There was plenty of speculation around the subject of discussions, which stretched into the early afternoon.
Scheduled in early December, it was an education and guidance session set up by Municipal Affairs intended to give the council a better understanding on various issues at the municipal level — including the handling and definition of sexual harassment.
“This is a positive first step,” said Parsons moments after the meeting had concluded. “There has to be education and there has to be guidance.”
Seymour and the rest of the town have been under fire since Tuesday when 20 firefighters handed over their pagers and resigned from the department in support of former councillor Sheri Collins, who stepped away from council.
What came next was an Internet and media firestorm that has brought to light allegations from firefighter Brenda Seymour of sexual harassment and mismanagement of the department.
An instance where a pornographic film was shown at the conclusion of training seminar which Seymour attended in April 2014 is one of a number of issues that have been causing tension in the community for some time.
The situation has been brewing since November when three of Spaniard’s Bay’s seven-member council attempted to remove former fire chief Victor Hiscock via a pair of motions that were defeated. It’s put the spotlight squarely on the town and left people questioning what the next step is.
In the interim, the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department is handling any emergency calls in the community.
It’s a story that has made international headlines and drawn plenty of interest on social media and in the news.
Before speaking the media, Seymour chatted with her supporters. She noted she has received phone calls from people all over the world pledging their support to her cause. There was even a 17-year-old aspiring female firefighter who is using Seymour as an inspiration going forward.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the core issue,” she said. “I want sexism like I’ve experienced to stop.”
The Spaniard’s Bay council has been on the hot seat the last number of days. Some in the community have handed around a petition calling for the council to remove Seymour from her position at the table.
“That’s a private issue and the council has nothing to do with them,” said Spaniard’s Bay Mayor Tony Menchions.
Menchions noted he thought some of the online comments were “blown out of proportion,” but committed to ensuring that changes are made wherever they need to be.
“We’re working on the policies as they come,” he said. “I’m one of many committed to the changes. It’s a long road.”
There’s no game plan or timeline for when this matter will be resolved.
“At the end of the day, when all of this has died down, we’ll be stronger and better for it,” said Menchions.