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Squamish council OKs councillor’s maternity leave

After ‘momentous vote,’ Coun. Jenna Stoner will take maternity leave.
Coun. Jenna Stoner.

Coun. Jenna Stoner is set to take her six-month maternity leave one day after the arrival of her child, now that council has voted in favour of her leave of absence.

On July 20, council unanimously voted to allow Stoner to take a leave of absence upon the arrival of her child. B.C.’s Community Charter does not have a parental leave subsection and, therefore, a vote had to be held so that Stoner would not be disqualified from her position.

Squamish council did adopt its own maternal and parental leave policy for councillors in 2019, but it still must do so through a vote.

“Squamish is one of just a few municipalities to offer this policy and it reflects our values of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said a spokesperson for the District in a written statement to The Chief.

“This feels a bit funny,” Stoner said in the council meeting. “But it is a historic legacy of our community charter that requires me to get a vote of my fellow colleagues to have a leave of absence and not get disqualified from my time in office.” 

“So, I appreciate having a parental leave policy at hand that we can lean on.”

Coun. John French said, “This is a momentous vote and I want to take a moment to recognize that Councillor Stoner is doing something that has never been done before by a Squamish councillor.”

“She’s the first and I’m confident she won’t be the last.”

A couple of councillors joked that they wouldn’t vote in favour for the leave because they would miss Stoner while she was gone.

“All joking aside, this is a really important piece,” said Mayor Karen Elliott.

“It's unfortunate that we still have to pass a motion rather than it being a right… it's important that young people feel that they can run for office and that their plans around family don't have to become second.”

The spokesperson for the District also told The Chief that it is not required by legislation that Stoner’s position need to be filled since it is a leave of absence and not a permanent vacancy.

Additionally, the District said that quorum is usually four members, which is also the simple majority for most votes with some legislative exceptions such as financial bylaws. Even if someone recuses themselves, it should have no effect as long as quorum is met, said the District.

Lastly, in the case of a tie vote, the District said the motion would fail per the community charter yet councillors would be allowed to reintroduce the motion within 30 days, so long as the motion had not been actioned.

“This could have an effect on some development-related bylaws if the vote fails, as our Development Procedures Bylaw establishes a six-month wait time for reapplication,” said the District.