Whitehorse Daily Star

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SHOWING SUPPORT FOR A COUNCILLOR – Parents and youth, including some babies, attended Monday’s city council meeting to support Coun. Michelle Friesen. She has been bringing her son, Theo, to the meetings.

Council members poised to discuss baby’s presence

Mayor Laura Cabott says the issue of Coun. Michelle Friesen bringing her eight-month-old baby to council meetings was to be discussed at an internal council meeting set for today.

By Whitehorse Star on March 15, 2023

Mayor Laura Cabott says the issue of Coun. Michelle Friesen bringing her eight-month-old baby to council meetings was to be discussed at an internal council meeting set for today.

The meeting, intended to find options and a solution, was to include the city manager, Cabott said in an interview last Friday.

“This is the first time in the City of Whitehorse where there has been a situation where a council member has brought their child to meetings,” she said. “So this is new to us.”

It was one thing when the baby was younger, but as he is growing, he’s now sitting up on the floor, sometimes crying, yelling, playing and doing what babies do, she pointed out.

“It is disruptive at times to our meetings and people participating in our meetings,” she said.

“What we are hoping to do is discuss this internally and come up with a solution that works for Coun. Friesen and council, and staff.”

Cabott said she has been clear from the beginning that council has not said her son is not able to come to chambers.

“We have not said that at all.”

The mayor said she is pretty confident they would come up with something at today’s meeting.

Council meetings are important, and members have to make important decisions, she said, noting the city’s $100-million budget.

Friesen has at times had to leave council chambers because she has had son Theo with her.

Cabott said they need to create an atmosphere where people can fully participate.

Council, she said, obviously supports working mothers, but they are elected officials who need to make important decisions.

Cabott said some members of council, staff and the public have raised the fact that when Friesen’s son is there, it can be disruptive and difficult for people to participate.

Meanwhile, a Ta’an Kwach’an Council elder has resigned from the city’s new inclusivity advisory committee because of council’s concerns about Friesen bringing her baby to meetings.

Bill Bruton was just appointed to the committee in January, along with seven other Whitehorse residents

The 69-year-old Bruton, who does social advocacy work, had put his name forward to serve on the committee, as an opportunity to advance his work.

“Due to the fact that the city is being exclusive in the matter of Michelle Friesen, I can no longer participate in this committee,” Bruton wrote in an email to the Star last weekend.

The city created the committee to promote inclusion, he wrote, but it’s practising exclusion.

In an interview Tuesday, Bruton said as a leader, you have to lead by example – and city council is not leading by example.

“They want to preach inclusion but they are practising exclusion,” he said.

Aboriginal councils accommo-date mothers with babies because they know it’s not good for babies to be away from their moms, Bruton noted.

They know it’s an important bonding time, a nurturing time, he said.

Council chambers were almost full on Monday evening, with many people there to show support for Friesen.

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