VICTORIA -- Victoria City Council passed a motion Thursday to create a working group that would see Victoria City Hall and the local hospitality industry working together toward the goal of mandating sexualized violence training in the workplace. The requirement could be a condition for approval of a liquor or business licence.

“It’s about changing the culture,” said Coun. Sarah Potts. “It’s about having this at the outset of the work: ‘This is part of what we do and this isn’t something that is not talked about.’”

The motion comes after multiple survivors of sexual assault in the hospitality industry have shared their stories publicly. Multiple restaurants have come under fire and removed staff members, and one of those restaurants closed its doors permanently. Additionally, two realtors lost their jobs due to the allegations against them, which have not been proven in court.

Robyn Stevenson has been in the hospitality industry for more than 30-years and is about to open the Tora Tiki Lounge in downtown Victoria.

“It’s time to step up and take care of our people,” said Stevenson.

She submitted a letter of support for Thursday’s motion, which she says could give business owners the tools they need to deal with sexual violence in the workplace.

“Basically, the way it stands is that if something happens in your business, you’re sort of left to your own devices to try to figure out how to deal with it,” said Stevenson. “There’s just a real lack of education, a lack of resources that are accessible and in your hands at that moment.”

Jean Barnes is the president of Unifor Local 333-BC in Victoria. She also submitted a letter of support for the motion.

“In today’s workplace, no one should have to deal with sexual predators,” said Barnes.

Most of the union’s members are bus drivers, but Barnes says this type of behaviour can happen anywhere.

“That issue can be carried forward in any industry and it’s just not acceptable,” she said.

In 2019, Potts brought forward a motion to mandate sexualized violence prevention training in the workplace. The City of Vancouver has a similar motion pending before its council. Potts says Thursdays vote for a working group could help bring that motion to reality.

“This will be a welcomed addition to this work and actually help advance the intent of the 2019 motion in a way that hadn’t originally been conceived,” said Potts. “It’s very exciting to see everyone get on board like this.”