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'A recent onslaught': London, Ont. social service agency calls out city councillor’s social media campaign


A social service agency that offers support primarily geared to sex workers has written a pointed letter to London City Council, but appears to be focused on one council member in particular.

Just before noon on Tuesday, Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson was seen in front of SafeSpace London at 679 Dundas St., being interviewed by media organization True North.

She stayed with them as they interviewed other people on the street.

It is one day after the SafeSpace board wrote the letter asking for more dialogue and less of what they call “a recent onslaught of traditional and social media attention.”

"At SafeSpace we're really focused on the work we're doing supporting sex workers, allies, women and gender-diverse folks in crisis,” said Rachel Berdan, chair of the SafeSpace board of directors.

The letter sites significant concerns about a duly elected public official denigrating their operations. While Stevenson isn't named, she has frequently taken to social media to call into question how funding for SafeSpace is being used and the work being done there.

"Truthfully we would love if there were actual questions about our operation; that they came to the organization,” Berdan told CTV News London.

She said the social media messaging has become a distraction from the organization’s core mandate.

Stevenson said she will continue to use various media forms to raise concerns.

SafeSpace Board Chair Rachel Berdan raises concerns about interviews being done near SafeSpace in London, Ont. on May 7, 2024. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

"I have a right as a duly elected councillor to speak with people, and they have right to know where their taxpayer dollars are going and have a say in that decision,” she said.

Stevenson has questioned whether the $65,000 a month the city provided for winter shelter beds was being used for promotional materials she feels are questionable.

"I didn't post anything that wasn’t currently on their website or that wasn't publicly posted,” she explained. “I'm not peeking through windows, or taking pictures or doing anything they're not publicly sharing and I think the public should know what it is that they’re funding.”

Stevenson has faced two inquiries by the city's Integrity Commissioner, and was reprimanded in connection with one of those inquiries. She was linked to social media posts with images of homeless individuals that included references to criminality.

She said she's not concerned about the possibilities of more complaints.

"I'm not going to be bullied into silence,” she said. “I represent the people of this ward that deserve to have a voice.”

Gesturing to people camped on the street she said, “They elected me to have a voice and you don't get to make unsubstantiated claims about 'harm' and all this kind of stuff when there is literal harm happening here."

At one point, Berdan approached Stevenson and the media members, and asked if they had been getting explicit consent from the people they were talking with and then asking them to find a different location.

They moved down the street and continued to speak with others on the street. Top Stories

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