OPIRG - Dis-O Week 2021
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail
Members of City Council voting to remove universal change rooms from the upcoming renovations to the Peterborough Sports and Wellness Centre

The Results Are In: City Council Ignored Us

Written by
Robert Gibson
and
and
July 2, 2021
The Results Are In: City Council Ignored Us
Members of City Council voting to remove universal change rooms from the upcoming renovations to the Peterborough Sports and Wellness Centre

The decision making process leading to Council not moving ahead with a Universal Change room design for the Peterborough Sports and Wellness Centre demonstrates that people are unheard and shows that Council's procedures can be barriers to engagement while the most impacted are silenced. The issues of the lack of public engagement are not limited to one issue, however, this Council decision shows that there are cracks in how decisions are made which can cause people to be further oppressed. 

In “The city says dialogue with citizens. How should that Work in practice?” it was revealed that I submitted a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) for survey results  regarding change rooms at the Wellness Centre as a result of decisions made and uncertainty surrounding the survey would be public. To submit an FOI request, it costs at least five dollars.  It is troubling that a survey was created in the first place, as explained in my previous article from a person interviewed for the article: “If there are only 1000 transgender people and 80,000 cisgender people obviously no matter what the wants or needs of the transgender and non-binary community is the cis voice will overshadow [their needs].”  

After touring the Nicholas Oval washrooms and using gender neutral facilities at Trent University, I saw no obvious privacy concerns noted, doors locked and there was no gap that was raised at the Council meeting.

Since my first article was published, issues regarding the public’s right to participate in the decision making and exclusion of viewpoints from discussion have been brought to the surface. On March 22 2021, Council approved an extension to a survey “...regarding the proposed renovations to the Sport and Wellness Centre changerooms.” The results of the survey were later ignored prior to them being made public. 

On Monday April 26, 2021, male identified Councillors supported a motion (Item 12) by Councillor Pappas, which eliminated universal change rooms from consideration. This motion passed despite Councillors not being presented survey results. After hearing some Councillors stating that they believed the results of the survey would show widespread opposition to a Universal Change room [due to phone calls and emails], there are indications the survey was just for show. 

The motion, moved by Councillor Pappas and Seconded by Councillor Riel, read:

“That Council reconsider the matter of the Wellness Centre Change Room Renovations and the direction provided to staff, as outlined in the December 1, 2020 Report CSD20-007, entitled, Investing in Canada Infrastructure Fund – COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream Funding, which was approved by Council at its meeting of December 14, 2020.”

It is noteworthy that on December 14 there were similar financial pressures as result of the pandemic as there are today. At the December 1 2020 General Committee Meeting  Councillors Baldwin, Wright and Riel voted to support the Wellness Centre, but not in April 2021, claiming this was in part due to financial pressures. Councillor Baldwin did support deferring the motion. The original renovation plans included Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) replacement, renovation of three change rooms into a single Universal change room, reconfiguration of existing office, boardroom, and café space, and relocation and build of the reception desk area required to obtain  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and COVID Standards. With the change, only the HVAC will be addressed. 

The public was unable to comment on the decision to not go ahead on change room renovations because of procedural rules that forbid the public from commenting on a notice of motion. Section 8.1 By-Law Number 19-029 says that Notices of Motions are after items on an agenda which the public may speak to. In not waiting for survey results, Council silenced and limited the voices of those most impacted by the change room renovations.

During the meeting on April 26 2021 Councillor Zippel pointed out that the change room funding was to make the change rooms and Peterborough Sports Wellness Centre more accessible in order to comply with AODA and COVID-19 standards. In addition, Councillor Zippel pointed out there were no financial reasons to review the decision Council made in December [as it was fully funded]. Later on in an emotional speech Councillor Zippel said that “this is a quality-of-life issue...I hope we do better because people are counting on us to do better” and pointed out the harm that the conversation was having on members of the non-binary community. 

Councillor Akapo pointed out that the survey took time and money and made the case for investing in people as well as saying millions are spent in one night without discussion for things like roads. 

Some of the major points against the majority of the change room design raised by Councillor Pappas were that the costs of the project had increased and noted that grants may require additional funding. The concern about costs was continually raised throughout the meeting. 

Councillor Parnell talked about how grant money would be lost if renovations didn’t happen and a compromise solution presented by staff that would see change rooms be more accessible and expanded. After the compromise wasn’t going to pass Councillor Zippel asked for a deferral so survey results would be included in the debate and the public would be able to review changes. This was deferral was defeated. 

One statement drew criticism when Councillor Wright said “Transgender rights are human rights” and went on to say that issue was about the costs of the facility and not about transgender rights.

Councillor Akapo responded by saying  that the city can’t just look at dollars and has to look at the human factor. In addition, it was pointed out that millions of dollars are regularly spent on roads. “If you truly support diversity and inclusion you have to put your money where your mouth is.” 

At the May 25 2021 Council meeting at about the 40-minute mark I raised my concerns in front of City Council. Hopefully, future decisions are made when the most impacted are included throughout the process and the barriers to participation are reduced. There is work for us to do. 

Some things you can do:

1) Listen to transgender, Black, Indigenous and homeless individuals who often go unheard 

2) Uplift what’s already being shared by members of impacted communities on social media and elsewhere

2) Ask impacted communities if they are being heard

3) Inform clubs and organizations that service impacted community individuals about issues that may impact them and ask if they would like advocacy

4) Challenge transphobic, sexist and racist statements among your friends, family and others when you hear it 

5) Write articles, send letters and engage in conversations while centering impacted community members. 


OPIRG - Dis-O Week 2021
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail
Written By
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OPIRG - Dis-O Week 2021
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail

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