The powerful MeToo campaign against sexual harassment had its immediate origins in anger over Donald Trump’s misogynist record, and then over similar revelations in Hollywood. Since then, courageous women across North America have stepped forward to confront men who abuse power to exploit women.
Some examples in Canada come from workplaces under federal jurisdictions, including prominent politicians who engage in a wide range of forms of sexual harassment. Other stories are less well known, but tragically typical for a society where patriarchal attitudes are far too often the norm rather than the rare exception.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada is supporting long overdue efforts in Parliament to improve harassment complaint procedures, and (after a 25 year campaign!) to extend basic health and safety protections to staff of the House of Commons, Senate, Library, and Parliament as a whole, where over 600 PSAC members are employed. PSAC is demanding the government hire Health and Safety Officers trained in privacy rights, human rights, sexual harassment, and domestic violence against women.
The situation in Ottawa is just the tip of the iceberg. At Canada Post’s Edmonton mail processing plant, six female workers filed sexual harassment complaints through their union against one supervisor during 2017 alone. The CBC reports that four complaints were investigated in March 2017, with the finding that the women were telling the truth, but that the supervisor’s behaviour did not constitute sexual harassment. In fact, the supervisor was allowed to return to work with the women who had made the complaints. Union officers say that subsequently, more women were victimized. While Canada Post claims the situation was dealt with adequately, the women say the supervisor’s behaviour became increasingly inappropriate, contributing to a toxic work environment inside the mail plant.
It’s 2018 – time to end sexual harassment in the workplace, under all jurisdictions.