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July 22, 2015

Statement from Women in Toronto Politics on Online Harassment faced by

Women in #TOpoli
In a city as large and as diverse as Toronto, fostering community both on and offline is
key to building the city we want. In May 2012, we decided to carve out some safe space
for ourselves and empower women to speak up about municipal issues by forming
Women in Toronto Politics. We wanted to combat the fear countless women in #TOpoli
have expressed to us - that speaking up online makes them targets for abuse. Through
our collective, we hope to offer women a sense of security and protection. We know that
women are safer in a group than on their own, and we try to provide some refuge from
the threat of gendered insults and harassment that serves to silence women online and
in their day-to-day lives.
WiTOpoli has continually demonstrated our commitment to supporting women and
championing their voices. During the last municipal election, we started #thecityIwant
campaign to galvanize support behind women candidates of colour who faced racism
and misogyny on the campaign trail. Our community provides a platform to encourage
and amplify womens voices and challenge the forces that aim to silence them.
Currently, the Crown is pursuing a case in which our Executive Director and one of our
volunteers are key witnesses. As members of the WiTOpoli Operations Team and
Steering Committee, we wish to publicly offer women experiencing harassment our
unconditional support, and recognize the overwhelming challenges these women face as
this case continues to play out in the public arena. Like many women who report
harassment or abuse, our members have repeatedly been subjected to personal attacks
online. As the media scrutiny surrounding this case increases, WiTOpoli continues to
support our colleagues and friends. While increasing press coverage has provoked
some users to send WiTOpoli hateful messages on social media, the vitriol directed at
us collectively is nothing compared to the personal attacks our ED and volunteer have
received. We are strong because we stand together. We stand as witnesses to these
online attacks and we stand with all women who feel they have been effectively silenced.
Part of the reason this case has been the focus of such polarizing media attention is
because it is one of the few cases in Canada that deals with behaviour in the online
sphere. As an organization, our mission is to create a more inclusive civic discourse one where all voices feel safe to speak up wherever conversations are taking place. In
order to build a more equitable city, diverse voices need to feel they have a seat at the
table. If women and other groups are hesitant to speak up for fear of being threatened,
how can we start an inclusive conversation?
We stand in solidarity with women everywhere who feel their voices have been silenced,
quieted, or marginalized. Who fear their opinions are not valued and who fear the vicious
attacks speaking up may drive their way. We believe in women, and ask that our
supporters do too.

About Women in Toronto Politics

Women in Toronto Politics is a non-partisan grassroots group that uses events and
online channels to amplify womens voices in Toronto civic discourse.