CALGARY — Moments after being sworn in as Calgary’s first female mayor, Jyoti Gondek followed through on a promise not to induct a fellow council member over allegations of sexual assault.
Coun. Sean Chu was the only councillor to be sworn-in by Associate Chief Justice John Rooke instead of Gondek.
“I didn’t want to swear him in. It did not seem right to me,” Gondek said following Monday’s ceremony. “The justice was willing to do it and I felt that was more appropriate.”
Days before the Oct. 18 municipal election, it was revealed Chu was found guilty of discreditable conduct by the Law Enforcement Review Board for touching a 16-year-old girl’s leg when he worked as a Calgary police officer in 1997.
Most of the incoming council pressed Chu, who won his seat by about 100 votes, to step down. He rejected those calls.
Chu also declined to comment to reporters Monday at Calgary City Hall.
After delivering a speech about the significance of Gondek’s swearing in as Calgary’s first female mayor, Rooke clarified his role to online and in-person attendees.
“My role here today is that of a court of law, not the court of public opinion. I leave the latter to the public and to the politicians,” he said, before explaining he was to swear in certain members at the request of Gondek.
Following the event, returning Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who worked with Chu on the previous council, said the issue is larger than just the one councillor.
He said people must support all survivors of sexual assault and work to upend systems that allow situations like this to occur.
“Police should not be policing the police,” said Carra, who added police reform remains a top priority for him. He also said Chu should resign so council can move forward without distraction.
Duelling protests took place outside the municipal building Sunday. One group demanded Chu resign while another voiced its support for him.
That night, Gondek released a statement saying she was proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
“It is frustrating to be denied the tools to do what is right. I feel that we were first let down by a culture that ignored victims’ voices, and now by a legal structure that removes the levers of power from city council and the mayor’s office,” she said.
“I am deeply moved by those who have shared their story of assault with me at the protest and in the past few days. I believe you and I will continue to stand up in the face of injustice to support you.”
Rookie Coun. Jasmine Mian also released a statement Sunday, drawing a distinction between politicians and elected officials.
Mian said politicians will “cling to the legal facts that allow them to continue doing what’s in their best interest” whereas elected officials acknowledge the ethical standards of the office they hold.
“Without public trust, there can be no public service,” she said.
— With files from CTV Calgary
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.
Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Chu had won his seat by 52 votes.