The fate of the rink and of minor hockey in Maple Creek was at stake last week. For a moment, it seemed like the rink would be closed for the season. The reason: a harassment policy that council had passed.
The issue at hand was that the policy included items members of the community felt were not fair. In addition, community members felt they were being forced to sign the policy by the Town. If parents did not agree to sign this policy, they would not be able to enter the rink or have their kids play hockey. Ultimately, this would mean the rink would be closed.
More than 50 members of the community, including some from out of town, concerned citizens, parents and a town councillor all gathered to voice concerns and discuss possible solutions to the issue. Some said they’d sign if changes were made while most said they didn’t want to sign it all.
The policy would require those partaking in any of the sports facilities in town to sign and agree to everything the harassment policy entailed. Furthermore, anyone from outside of town that used any of the facilities would also need to sign the policy. The main issue isn’t the policy but rather how town council intended to force people to sign. Another important issue was that people felt their freedom of speech was being threatened.
For many hockey parents, the policy came as a surprise, having only found out about it when it came time to register their children for the upcoming hockey season. In addition, parents are already required to sign a code of conduct upon registering their children for minor hockey. While all in attendance agreed no one should be harassed in the workplace, the concern is that any form of dissent could be treated as harassment towards town facility employees, and with no committee to investigate the matter parents could be unfairly removed from town facilities.
Following the meeting, town councillor Michelle Mckenzie, who was present during the discussions, helped answer questions from concerned members of the community. Mckenzie called for a special council meeting that was held the following day. She says no one will have to sign the policy. However, the Town will work to create a policy to protect everyone.
“In our special meeting, we discussed not having parents sign the harassment policy, but with having minor sports, figure skating, soccer, any sport when people are registering, they will see our town policy that we wanted to make sure our town employees are not to be harassed,” she said. “We want to make a group policy that is to protect our workers, our patrons and our children. We want to make a safe place for everyone in the community,” she added.
Much of what the policy contained were requirements from the Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety Regulations that employers are required to provide to their employees. The Town will now look at creating a committee to deal with harassment complaints, and will be tabling a new and revised policy that would be present in Town facilities as a condition of entering, but will not require a signature. The conditions would be displayed in the facilities, at the moment there is already a sign requesting respect between all arena users.
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