Leduc firefighter addresses city council after filing lawsuit alleging harassment
“How can the fact that I was assaulted by co-workers not matter?” That was the question Christa Steele calmly but directly asked Leduc city council at its regular meeting Monday night.
It was the first formal address Steele has made to council since filing a lawsuit against the City of Leduc in February.
The statement of claim filed by Steele and another female firefighter paramedic in Leduc details allegations of harassment, discrimination and sexual assault lasting decades.
None of the allegations have been proved in court and the city has not filed a statement of claim.
“It felt empowering. It felt freeing because I finally got to say my piece a little bit,” Steele told Global News after her speech.
“And yet it still feels like I was blown off maybe.”
Mayor Bob Young mostly kept his head down throughout the address.
He raised it when Anika Steele, Christa’s daughter took the podium.
Anika, a former student of Young when he was a teacher, also addressed council.
“I looked up to you as an educator in a position of power and authority as a junior high kid,” Anika said to Young.
“And if I had been emotionally, physically or sexually abused, I would have assumed that I could have come to you and you would have advocated for me and validated my words. But now I have to ask myself, would you have reported it or would it have even have mattered?” she finished confidently.
The teen was joined by two of her friends, Payton May and Carlie Timmons. Both May and Timmons are also former students of Young.
“There’s not one woman that I know in my life that hasn’t dealt with some sort of similar effects in one way shape or form,” Timmons told Global News.
“So it is incredibly important for me especially having the two around me, we’ve gone through things together and what’s going to happen to the people who are after us?”
All three said they were disappointed with the City of Leduc’s response to the allegations made by Steele and other female firefighters.
“Even if you’ve done things that are wrong, you need to come forward with it and you need to own up to your mistakes. That is what we are taught in school, that’s what we are taught by educators,” May said after the meeting.
For the second week in a row, Megan Wright also addressed council.
Last week the firefighter paramedic publicly resigned from Leduc Fire Services in a poignant speech to council.
Monday she directed multiple questions to councillors.
She asked for specific examples of what disciplinary actions the City of Leduc has taken since the allegations were first made. The city has told Global News actions have been taken but it has not disclosed what those actions are.
She also asked when the search for a new fire chief started. In March, former Chief George Clancy resigned suddenly.
Both Steele and Wright are pushing for the release of a third-party report commissioned by the city in 2021.
It was completed and delivered to the city in January but has not been made public and council has not seen it.
Last week, Mayor Young indicated he would not ask for the report to be made public saying he did not believe it was important to city council.
Instead, council has asked that a new review be done into workplace culture as a whole.
That is not good enough for Wright.
“The message to Mr. Mayor is, I will be here every week until I get an answer to those questions,” she said.
Steele agreed saying she will continue to advocate for safety in workplaces both within the City of Leduc and throughout the country.
“Not only are other females at our department coming forward but there’s females at departments all across Alberta coming forward so this is making a statement.”
Both Young and City Manager Derek Prohar declined comment to Global News Monday night.