Op-ed: Taking action against sexual harassment in the workplace on International Women’s Day

This illustration was created by Inuit survivors of violence in 2013 as part of a project by Ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre. (Image courtesy of the ISDC)

By Gloria Song
Access to justice co-ordinator, Law Society of Nunavut

This column is about sexual harassment in the workplace. This topic may be upsetting. Please take any steps that you need to prepare and care for yourself emotionally, including what care you might need after reading this. We have included resources for support at the end of this column.

Gloria Song, access to justice co-ordinator, Law Society of Nunavut (Photo courtesy of Adrienne Row-Smith)

There have been more discussions in the territory in recent years about harassment in the workplace, including bullying.

Workplace harassment is a serious issue that exists all over Canada, not just in Nunavut, and it can have a negative effect not only on the worker experiencing it, but also everyone else who might be exposed to the toxic work environment that workplace harassment can create. On this special day, International Women’s Day, we at the Law Society of Nunavut would like to talk about a particular type of workplace harassment – sexual harassment – and what we can do to stop harassment in the workplace.

Workplace harassment is vexatious and unwelcome comments or behaviours that threaten a worker’s health or safety. Sexual harassment is a type of harassment that involves a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment could be making an unwelcome sexual invitation at work or relating to work. For example, being told that you could get a promotion if you sleep with your boss is sexual harassment. But sexual harassment is also inappropriate sexual comments or materials in the workplace. For example, posting pornography at work or making insulting sexual jokes is sexual harassment – it could make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the workplace.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong and against the law. Everyone has a right to a healthy, safe and respectful workplace. All workplaces should have a workplace harassment policy. If you are experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment, you should report it so that your employer can deal with it. But sometimes people don’t know how to recognize sexual harassment, or what to do about it.

The Law Society of Nunavut has been involved in a project to raise public awareness about sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and violence in the workplace. We are creating resources like posters, videos, pamphlets, podcasts, guides for employers, and referral sheets on how to get help. We’re also planning community workshops so that lawyers, law students, and other project partners can provide training to communities in Nunavut about workplace harassment and violence, as well as free legal advice to people who may want more information and learn about steps they can take to deal with the issue. We’re very pleased to be working with various local organizations to guide these efforts.

It’s great to see more people and organizations taking a stand about harassment in the workplace. On this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the progress that has been made so far. More importantly, let’s keeping working together to stop this serious problem.

For more information about this project, you can call the law society toll-free at 1 (844) 979-2330 or go to the law society’s website: https://www.lawsociety.nu.ca/

Do you need someone to talk to? Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line offers anonymous and confidential telephone support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Toll Free: 1-800-265-3333

Gloria Song is the access to justice coordinator for the Law Society of Nunavut

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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Meaning on

    “making insulting sexual jokes is sexual harassment – it could make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the workplace.”
    .
    I think it I important that the author distinguish between criminal harassment and ‘harrassment’ based on how people subjectively feel and respond to social interactions. One can get you fired/cancelled and another can get you charged. Free speech exists, and there can be social consequences to it, but no one is going to jail over a sex joke.
    .
    I feel this distinction is important as many readers will see Law Society and think this article is talking about courts and criminal law.

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    • Posted by Jim on

      i used to make sexist jokes , then some of my fellow co worker made a complaint to the HR dept. I had to take sensitivity training , now , i keep all my opinions to my self including the weather

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