Well, an interesting last few days to say the least. The mother of an 8yr old girl, Anika, reached out to me and the city on Twitter to let me know that her daughter was asked to cover up while at a public pool and was upset. I told her I was unaware of the issue and that I’d investigate it with staff. Which is exactly what I’ve done for the past few days.
First things first from me. Anika, If your little girl, you or your family felt embarrassed due to the current policy being enforced by our city staff and it upset any of you- I’m sorry.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak directly to Anika and we had a good chat.
I told her that it’s important to know that I and city staff take all matters seriously, and we tackle them in the same manner whether the request comes to us one on one (privately) or through making the issue funnel through social media and/or to the media (publicly).
This was an administration policy put in place a few years ago. Not a political one. Whenever a policy is brought to the city’s attention where there’s any “questioning” of it, staff will examine and explore it.
I believe Anika was appreciative of my call to her and I told her a decision was coming forth today on how we were going to move forward. (see below)
Now, most people would like to know my opinion on the matter. Fair enough.
So here it is:
I don’t mind the current policy as it stands. In fact of all the emails, calls and social media coming my way there are a lot of people in favour of keeping it the way it is.
I look forward to the review from staff on it though. With new information, education, legal briefings or perspectives on it that come forward I can easily change my mind if need be.
I think the policy intent was noble. To say that it’s sexual shaming little girls or gender bashing is just unfair because that was not the intent. It’s intent was to create a policy of comfort to all. All, meaning our other patrons, citizens and our city staff that are interacting with each other under these situations in an enclosed public place.
There’s also become a massive tidal wave of activism around this issue now. Specifically aimed at me and city staff. As I said above, it didn’t need to become that. The matter would have been handled the same way without the exaggeration that this type of activism and self promotion by some that it brings. (By the way I’m not speaking solely of Anika here. I think she’s been taken back at how much this has blown up too).
It’s a beautiful day out there today. Stop reading this now and go for a swim.
Here’s the City official Statement:
On Saturday, June 20 a lifeguard working at Exhibition Park asked the parents of an eight-year-old girl to put the girl’s top on while she was using the wading pool.
We apologize that the event caused the little girl to feel singled out or embarrassed; that was not the intent of the employee who acted appropriately based on the City’s swimming attire policy.
We want everyone to enjoy Guelph’s parks and pools, and we believe the policy has helped us provide safe enjoyable recreation facilities for people of all walks of life, and balances the needs of women, men, children, swimming instructors, lifeguards and other recreation staff.
Since Saturday, we’ve received a lot of diverse feedback about the part of the policy that requires girls above the age of four to wear a swimming top. Some people support the policy while others feel it no longer meets their needs. The City’s challenge is to find a reasonable balance that serves our community.
As the complex subject of children’s dress codes is being discussed and debated around the world, the City of Guelph must consider its role and responsibilities as the owner of public facilities, a provider of recreation programs for people of all ages, and an employer of teens and adults.
Suspending and reviewing part of the swimming attire policy
In response to community feedback, the City of Guelph will review the section of the swimming attire policy related to swimming tops. During the review, the City will not enforce this section of the policy.
As part of the policy review, the City will consult other municipalities, schools and institutions across the province including Parks and Recreation Ontario, the Life Saving Society and the Red Cross. We’ll also gather input from recreation patrons and the community at large, and ensure any proposed changes comply with applicable legislation.
More information about how people can participate in the policy review will be communicated in the weeks ahead. We appreciate your patience as we develop our community engagement plan, and we hope you’ll participate in this opportunity to help the City determine its role in providing safe enjoyable recreation facilities for people of all walks of life.
This summer and year round, our lifeguards, swimming instructors, camp councillors and other recreation staff want to help you and your children make friends, learn skills and have fun.