I first want to say that the young women who have shared their experiences are very brave. It was very courageous for them to step forward. In my heart, I hope that they are finding the supports that they need now. They did a very difficult thing, and they’ve been carrying this for years. There’s an impact to them. I hope they are safe. I hope they are surrounded by loved ones today.
When I heard these allegations, I was shocked. And when I came to work this morning, I wanted to talk to people around the province who are reading this news and wondering what is going on.
I know there are many like me — people who are outraged and saddened that in 2018 we are still struggling to come to terms with the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our society. There are people in their living rooms, at their workplaces, reading the newspaper or listening to the radio. There are young people seeing the news on their iPhones and their devices.
There are obviously lots of questions that are going to come forward in the days ahead. Right now, I am thinking about this in my role as a mother, as a daughter, as a leader. It is really important that we understand how deeply troubling these behaviours are to human beings — to people.
There are parents all over the province who sit on the edge of their kids’ beds at night, and they talk about and try to sort through what’s going on in the schoolyard or what happened on a date — and how to handle those situations. Those are the real questions. That’s why I wanted to make a statement this morning about the role we all must play in figuring this out as a society.
We have to sort this out together. We have to take responsibility. We have to be vigilant.
But we can’t just assume that people coming forward will change everything. That alone is not going to create the change that we need to see. We all have to be vigilant, and we have to shine a light in all parts of our lives to create those safe places that we know are possible.
At Queen’s Park, we’ve worked very hard to put training in place, and make sure that there are procedures and that everybody knows what those procedures are. But I think what we need to understand today is that even as we’ve made big changes in this province and put in place new laws and rules, it’s still not enough. There’s still more that we have to do. When we brought out the policy on sexual assault and violence, it was called ‘It’s Never Okay.’ And on the last page of that action plan it said ‘To be continued,’ because we knew in our hearts that there was going to be more to do.
Today I stand with all of the people, all over the province, who are trying to create those safe places. I recognize that I am in this with so many people. We all have a responsibility, and will continue to work together to create that safety for you — whoever you are, and wherever you are in Ontario.