Madame chair, members of the committee, thank you for allowing us to appear before you today and participate in your study on sexual harassment in the federal workplace.
I would like to start with a quote:
“CBC/Radio-Canada considers all forms of discrimination, including discriminatory and sexual harassment, to be unacceptable; it will not tolerate its occurrence, and will make every reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subjected to it.”
That commitment comes from our corporate policy on anti-discrimination and harassment, which is posted on our website. You have a copy before you.
The policy defines discrimination and discriminatory harassment and gives examples. It sets out mechanisms for redress including disciplinary action. It establishes confidentiality provisions and tells employees how to get action on complaints or concerns.
Together with our policies on the prevention of workplace violence and our policy on discipline, which you also have before you, our corporation strives to ensure that all employees are treated with dignity and respect. Should this not happen, we deal with it as quickly as possible.
CBC/Radio-Canada currently has 8,599 employees across Canada; 4,597 men, and 4,002 women.
Over the past three years, the corporation has received, in all of the 48 cities across Canada and the territories where we have a presence, a total of three complaints of sexual harassment. In one case, an employee received a written reprimand; in the second, an employee received a written reprimand and was ordered to take sensitivity training; and, in the third case, the employee was suspended for two days and also ordered to take sensitivity training.
As far as I’m concerned, one complaint is one too many, and we continue to strive to improve our record.
In 2007, all employees, as well as their managers across the organization, were required to complete “respect in the workplace” training. This training was a joint program developed and offered by the unions and management. And right now, we are running an online training session against “violence in the workplace”, which every employee is required to complete.
Today, across the entire corporation, we do not have a single outstanding complaint of sexual harassment. I am proud of our continuing efforts to ensure that people who work at CBC/Radio-Canada can thrive in an environment that is free from harassment of any kind.
Given our record, you might wonder why you have been seeing stories in Quebecor newspapers, The Sun and the Journal de Montreal, and also on their television network SunTV, suggesting that CBC/Radio-Canada is a hotbed of sexual harassment.
Quebecor media based its story on an access for information request which asked for, “copies of all documents, including e-mails, complaints, memos, internal reports etc., regarding reports of harassment or inappropriate behavior involving CBC employees since January 1, 2010….limited to Toronto and Ottawa”.
We provided that information. This is a copy of it here. 1,454 pages – mostly emails between human resources staff working to resolve human resources issues. Most of the details are blacked out because they are personal information. That is the law. Quebecor’s Brian Lilley used that as an excuse for speculation and innuendo; here I quote from a QMI story that ran in the Journal de Montreal on January 31 “ (...) A pile of documents relating to 1,454 cases processed between January 1, 2010, and halfway through 2012." He further linked CBC to sexual harassment at the RCMP and linked us also to the recent revelations of sexual abuse at the BBC, the now famous Jimmy Saville story. He insists that he’s just doing his job, holding CBC to account.
If that was true, you would think he might have asked us a single question about this before he launched his attack.
If he had, we could have told him the facts; of the two locations he requested (Toronto and Ottawa), over the time period he requested (since January 1, 2010), we had one complaint of sexual harassment, which we addressed.
Sexual harassment in the federal workplace is a serious issue. It deserves to be treated as a serious issue.
Last fall, David Suzuki, CBC host of The Nature of Things, was invited by Montreal’s John Abbott College to speak to students. Another access for information request, for all documents about the visit, followed and then, a few weeks ago Quebecor was at it again. SunTV's Ezra Levant used the documents to make the outrageous claim that David Suzuki was – and I’m quoting: “procuring girls to be his escorts”. You have copies of his stories and transcripts of his program in front of you.
Once again untrue. Once again, the Quebecor employee didn’t check with the college, with David Suzuki, or anyone else who would actually tell him his allegations were false. After his first story, John Abbott College responded – a copy of which you have before you. I’d like to read one section:
There was no rider in Dr. Suzuki’s contract specifying the gender or dress code of those assisting him throughout the day. The negative comments and innuendos made are demeaning to those students and to the college.
The statement concludes:
The college is committed to providing our students with an expansive view of society to assist them on their path to becoming critical thinkers. It is a shame that along the way, they are also witnesses to the falsification of information considered to be acceptable practice by news professionals.
Now, I don’t expect the Sun’s agenda to change. But I believe it is important to call them out when they are deliberately misleading Canadians; when they’re taking a serious issue like sexual harassment and turning it into a weapon for their own interests.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to feel unfairly treated by a reporter. There are probably some people who have been unhappy with their treatment by CBC/Radio-Canada. Maybe even in this room. They’re thinking; "welcome to my world." Fair enough. But let me point out a few differences.
CBC-Radio-Canada has journalistic standards – our guide, journalistic standards and practices sets out how our journalists are to do their jobs. In fact, the guide is used as a model for journalistic organizations around the world. We also have two ombudsmen who investigate complaints of unfair coverage and issue a public report.
Should there be a debate about public broadcasting? Absolutely. There should be a debate about CBC/Radio-Canada; about what services we provide; about how we respond to incidents of harassment or violence in the workplace. But to be useful the debate must be based on something other than attacks by a media competitor.
I thank you for your time. Yours is an important study. Monique and I would be pleased to take your questions.