Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is moving her constituency office from the Matraea Centre in downtown Duncan to provide a more safe working environment for her staff after a recent protest and other incidents. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is moving her constituency office from the Matraea Centre in downtown Duncan to provide a more safe working environment for her staff after a recent protest and other incidents. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley MLA to move office after protest, incidents cause safety concerns

Sonia Furstenau says she fears for safety of staff

Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is moving her constituency from the Matraea Centre after a protest by people opposed to COVID-19 health protocols and those with other issues.

In a column, Furstenau said she and her office workers had loved being in the Matraea Centre, located on Craig Street in downtown Duncan, working alongside people dedicated to the health and well being of the community.

But she said there has been a significant increase in incidents and interactions in the constituency office that have left people feeling uncomfortable or unsafe in their workplace.

“As the Matraea Centre has a shared common space with the other service and health care providers, it is not fair to the others in the building to have their workplaces disrupted by individuals or groups who are not acting in a respectful manner,” Furstenau said.

“[On Dec. 1], a group of people opposed to COVID-19 public health measures entered that shared space, and when they were informed that neither I nor my staff were on site, they chose to continue to disrupt the other people in the shared space.”

Furstenau said she had recommended earlier that day to her constituency staff that they should work at home because of an unrelated incident that made her concerned for their safety.

“Hearing about the disturbance and distress caused by the group who came into the Matraea Centre was when I made the decision that we will need to find a location in which people coming to our office will not be disrupting or disturbing others,” she said.

“It has also become clear that we will need additional security measures in place so that constituency staff can feel safe at work.”

Furstenau said a constituency office is first and foremost a place for people to reach out to if they are having a challenge with accessing a provincial service, or if they need support as they navigate provincial services.

She said it’s a non-partisan office and staff are there to serve any constituents who need help or assistance.

“In providing this assistance, they should never be expected to tolerate abusive or aggressive behaviour, and yet this is unfortunately becoming more common,’ Furstenau said.

“As we look for a new location for the constituency office, staff will continue to serve people remotely, and can be reached by phone at 250-715-2792, and email at sonia.furstenau.MLA@leg.bc.ca. As soon as we find a new location, we will provide an update on our website.”

COVID-19