CBC President’s Evidence to Parliament on Sexual Harassment

Hubert Lacroix Parliament said the CBC has sexual abuse under control in 2013

By Stephen Pate – The following is the testimony of the CBC(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) President Hubert Lacroix’s testimony before the Parliament of Canada, Standing Committee on the Status of Women, dated March 5, 2013.

Featured image Hubert Lacroix President and CEO of CBC (Photo CP Nathan Denette)

In his testimony, Lacroix said the CBC has strict policies to deal with sexual harassment at the CBC.  Lacroix told the Standing Committee “Over the past three years, the corporation has received…a total of three complaints of sexual harassment.”

“Our corporation strives to ensure that all CBC/Radio-Canada employees are treated with dignity and respect. Should this not happen, we deal with it as quickly as possible.”

From the stories that are being reported regarding ex-CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi those facile statements are clearly not true.

If you read the comments of Monique Marcotte (CBC Interim Executive Director, English Services Human Resources et al), she contradicts Lacroix. She states there were 62 complaints of sexual harassment, not including Jian Ghomeshi who’s alleged sexual harassment of fellow employees and artists was reportedly hushed up.

Testimony: CBC President Hubert Lacroix

Madam Chairman, bonjour. Members of the committee, good morning.

Thank you for allowing Monique and me to appear before you today and to participate in your study on sexual harassment in the federal workplace.

Let me start with a quote, if I can:

CBC/Radio-Canada considers all forms of discrimination, including discriminatory and sexual harassment, to be unacceptable; will not tolerate its occurrence; and will make every reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subjected to it.

That commitment actually comes from our corporation’s 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 CBC/Radio-Canada 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. 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. That included the President and Chief Executive Officer. This training was a joint program developed and offered by the unions and management. Right now, we are running an online training session against violence in the workplace, which every employee is required to complete. Once again, that includes the President and Chief Executive Officer.

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 Le Journal de Montréal, and also on the television network Sun TV, suggesting that CBC/Radio-Canada is a hotbed of sexual harassment. Quebecor Media based its story on an access to information request that it made, and that asked for, and I quote:

“Provide copies of all documents, including e-mails, complaints, memos, internal reports etc., regarding reports of harassment or inappropriate behaviour involving CBC employees since January 1, 2010. Please limit the search to the Toronto and Ottawa operations of CBC. “

We provided this information. There’s a copy right here in front of me of 1,454 pages, mostly e-mails between human resources staff, working to resolve human resources issues. Most of those details are blacked out because they contain personal information. That’s the law. Quebecor’s Brian Lilley used that as an excuse for speculation and innuendo.

It says “CBC/Radio-Canada provided a pile of documents relating to 1,454 cases processed between January 1, 2010 and halfway through 2012, limited to the Toronto and Ottawa offices”.

Lilley further linked the 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 Savile story.

He insists that he’s just doing his job, holding us to account.

Well, if that were true, you would think he might have asked us a single question 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 have 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 the documents about this visit, followed.

Then, a few weeks ago, Quebecor was at it again. Sun TV’s Ezra Levant used the documents to make this 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 that his allegations were false.

After his first story, John Abbott College made a response, a copy of which you also have in front of 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 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 Sun Media’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 am sure I am 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, Lacroix”. Fair enough.

But let me point out a few differences between CBC/Radio-Canada and Québecor Médias. 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 media competitor.

I thank you for your time. Yours is an important study. Monique and I would be pleased to take your questions.

Transcript: Hubert Lacroix, Standing Committee on the Status of Women


House-of-Commons-Committees-FEWO-41-1-Evidence – March 2013, CBC President Hubert Lacroix

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By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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