Alberta MLA speaks one year after sharing domestic violence story in legislature
One year ago, Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick stood in the Alberta legislature and told her emotional story of past domestic violence. She recently sat down with Global’s Erik Mikkelsen to talk about the progress being made to support victims of domestic violence in our province, and the online harassment directed at female MLAs, most recently Sandra Jansen.
Erik Mikkelsen: It’s been a year since you stood up in the legislature and told your story and your history with domestic violence. How has it been over the last year now that you’ve shared your story so publicly?
Maria Fitzpatrick: It’s been busy but it’s busy in the legislature. However I’ve had thousands of contacts from people that are in or have been in domestic violence situations. They’ve expressed to me over and over again how happy they were that I stood up and told my story.
One of my colleagues presented a petition last week, on a policy on harassment in the workplace. I was in the federal Public Service where we had a policy, a policy that was not always followed. However, that’s coming forward as a bill and I certainly plan on standing and speaking to that. Because again, any kind of violence, whether it’s in word or action, that does not move things forward. It doesn’t make things better for anybody else.
EM: Obviously this is still an issue in our society, so what’s next? What do we need to do next?
MF: We are certainly talking about the curriculum in schools, and I haven’t talked to this with the minister, but in my head I’m kind of going through some of the things that can be done. I know in schools the kids are not allowed to disrespect one another and when they’re in front of the teachers they’re usually pretty good. But it’s those times when they’re out in the hallway or out on the playground. So is there something that could be done to tweak the curriculum that guides the kids a little bit more in terms of being respectful, not just behaving well but recognizing that it’s important to respect one another.
There is certainly negative rhetoric and I’ve had lots of negative rhetoric on my Facebook and my Twitter. I wonder what is it that’s motivating them to feel that way. Do they feel unempowered in their own lives and what can they do to change that? So that they feel better about themselves and they don’t attack others. But little by little we will move forward.
EM: It seems as of late that female politicians are the subjects of harassment online. Have you experienced that?
MF: I sent out a Facebook message and a tweet welcoming MLA Sandra Jansen into our caucus and because I did it publicly, I had some people say really nasty things about her. I’m just appalled that people would say that. I can’t stop it, I can just ask the people be respectful. I’ve got Sandra’s back.
If any woman is receiving these, I’m there with her to to push back against this kind of behaviour. I’m not pushing back violently, I’m asking people to behave themselves.
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