Leadership School for Women inspires mayor to tell her story

    PORT HAWKESBURY: The mayor shared her experiences while in public office after attending a Leadership School for Women recently in Membertou.

    During the weekend of August 21-22, more than 100 women joined virtually and in-person for a leadership school for women that was supposed to be held last spring at the NSCC Strait Area Campus, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

    On the first day, there was an optional blanket exercise which took participants through the truth and reconciliation process and the history of Indigenous Canadians.

    “It’s quite a powerful experience,” the mayor stated. “It’s certainly a very moving and powerful teaching tool.”

    The second day was devoted to Learning Day which went from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Discussions included First Nation governance with female elected officials and an address by We’koqma’q First Nation band councillor Annie Bernard-Daisley.

    After a presentation by Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, the discussion transitioned to municipal government where female leaders and representatives talked about dealing with the media, leadership qualities and the power of positive community engagement, among other topics.

    The day concluded with female representatives sharing their personal stories.

    After returning home, Chisholm-Beaton said she struggled with the decision to talk honestly about what she called “the dark side” of politics.

    “Some of the negative experiences that women can be exposed to, if we don’t talk about them out loud, if we don’t let our citizens know that they are occurring, then they won’t change,” the mayor told The Reporter. “Keeping them silent is what continues to allow those things to happen.”

    In a Facebook post, the mayor said since becoming an elected official, she has received a range of direct and indirect threats.

    “Severity ranged from threats to have me ‘kicked off council’ to ‘I’d be sorry’ or would ‘regret it’ if I didn’t stop posting information on social media that refuted misinformation [particularly during the Destination Reeves Street Project],” she recalled. “I’ve been referred to as ‘that stupid blonde b*tch.’”

    Chisholm-Beaton said during the debate over building a new airport in the Inverness area last year, she “was targeted several times,” including disturbing private messages and offensive public posts.

    The mayor reported that over the past year, a man has been sending her “extremely disturbing tests” and posting “misogynistic public posts” on the mayor’s social media page under “a variety of pseudonyms.”

    “Thank you to the RCMP for stopping him,” she posted. “It isn’t very nice when you get messages like, ‘tell her I’ll make sure the next six months will be the worst of her life.’”

    In addition to threats and name-calling, Chisholm-Beaton pointed to accusations of soliciting votes from seniors via the Cape Breton Christmas for Seniors despite donating $10,000 worth of food and hundreds of hours of volunteer time each year

    “The accusation diminishes us all because this event is the result of teamwork and done for the love of our seniors,” she posted.

    Chisholm-Beaton said she has been accused of being self-serving and in-conflict over the Destination Reeves Street project.

    “The Fleur-de-Lis [Restaurant] was not one of the businesses who participated in, or benefited from, the facade program,” the mayor stated in her post.

    “There is a difference between public scrutiny and being exposed to abusive comments, threatening comments, misogynistic comments,” she added. “It’s something that can happen to all politicians and if we don’t talk about it, then it won’t change.”