Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Nunavut October 22, 2018 - 8:13 am

GN’s sexual harassment policy isn’t good enough

“It’s hard to see how the current GN policy could deter harassment, mostly because the process operates in secret”

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The Sivummut building in Iqaluit, one of many Government of Nunavut workplaces scattered throughout the territory. Right now, the GN has no way to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints and no way of knowing if their current policy works. And since the outcomes of complaints are kept secret, it's unlikely that the policy is able to deter sexual harassment. (FILE PHOTO)
The Sivummut building in Iqaluit, one of many Government of Nunavut workplaces scattered throughout the territory. Right now, the GN has no way to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints and no way of knowing if their current policy works. And since the outcomes of complaints are kept secret, it's unlikely that the policy is able to deter sexual harassment. (FILE PHOTO)

MARGARET HOLLIS

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The premier of Nunavut has promised a review of the Government of Nunavut’s sexual harassment policy, a good first step.The federal government has a sexual harassment policy too.

But what about employees in places that don’t have that kind of policy? And do those policies actually reduce sexual harassment? 

To know if the policies are effective, it would be helpful to have statistics of some kind.

Year by year, how many complaints are made under the policy? How many are resolved? How many people are the subject of several complaints?

The GN policy says a criminal act—that is, sexual assault—is to be referred to the RCMP. How many of those referrals are made yearly?

The GN does not publish this data. It is possible that the data is not even collected, because the GN policy does not require that kind of reporting to a central agency.

We have no idea how many people make complaints, or how many complaints are processed and how many are ignored. The only way to know if a policy is working is by measuring outcomes: statistically, or by following up with participants, or both.

However, it’s hard to see how the current GN policy could deter harassment, mostly because the process operates in secret. (This is very common in sexual harassment policies; it is not unique to the GN.)

Harassment is not treated as a workplace safety problem, but as a private conflict between two people, and the whole process is confidential.

The rest of the workplace never learns that the conduct under review is unacceptable, so there is no way for others to be deterred from it.

This secrecy also works to protect and enable a serial harasser, because prospective victims have no warning—so it is possible the GN policy has the unintended effect of promoting sexual harassment in those cases.

There is also a lot the GN policy does not cover. It uses the word “workplace” repeatedly, but does not define it, permitting the wrong interpretation that the rules do not apply on duty travel or offsite meetings.

The GN policy does not deal with, or even recognize, power inequities. The guide for implementing the policy says: “Sexual harassment does not include a consensual relationship,” but it does not define “consensual.”

A woman who knows she can be fired, given poor performance reviews, or assigned all the rotten tasks if she says “no” may submit, but it is not true consent; she is still being forced.

Finally, the GN policy does not apply to non-employees. Members of the public, and contractors such as translators or cleaners, cannot use the policy to report being harassed or assaulted by a GN employee.

Whether a workplace has a sexual harassment policy or not, any employee can use the human rights tribunal process to complain of workplace harassment, but that is not available to a contractor.

If the conduct amounts to sexual assault, anybody can go to the RCMP. 

These processes rarely improve a workplace situation. We can hope that the GN review will result in something better.

For a PDF copy of the GN harassment policy, follow this link.

For a copy of the accompanying guide for GN employees and supervisors, follow this link.

Margaret Hollis is a lawyer who serves Nunavut institutions and businesses, and who writes sexual harassment policies.

 

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(7) Comments:

#1. Posted by Bbff on October 22, 2018

Just a pitiful the current education health curriculum does not even mention the word consent. It’s from 1980s wake up Nunavut is a new world!

#2. Posted by Just to point out on October 22, 2018

If one feels that they have been sexually assaulted they can and more importantly, should report it to the police.

#3. Posted by Please report sexual harassment on October 23, 2018

This subject is ugly and shameful to the victim and is not always reported.  It can go on for years, making the victim feel helpless and at fault. It is not even considered an issue by those in charge who are the perpetrators themselves.  Many files would have gone to KRPF in Nunavik but nobody wants to speak out.

#4. Posted by Pussy Galore on October 23, 2018

#2 This is about harassment though. This is things like a supervisor referring to the size of your tits or calling you a sexualized pet name at work. This happens too often in some work places. I’ve seen it and know that my supervisor hasn’t done much of anything that I can see to deal with it. That’s how it is when old men, Inuk or White, run the show.

#5. Posted by It's sad on October 23, 2018

men, young or old, white or inuk, married or not, have no honor.  Tagva without us, these same men wouldn’t be born

#6. Posted by Observer on October 23, 2018

Why only sexual assault the policy should represent all types of harrassment which is rampant throughout the GN

#7. Posted by Man on October 24, 2018

That’s sexist and you’re sexist. Maybe by raising men right will there be equality and peace. and not only the men too, but also the women who have no honour.

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