Outrage in Canada over high profile cases of sexual violence, misogyny

World Today

Canadians called for tougher workplace laws and better education to combat sexual violence following a series of allegations against high profile public figures in the counrty. The incidents have sparked a national debate about how employers should respond to complaints against their staff, despite their high-profile status. CCTV America’s Kristiaan Yeo had the report from Toronto.

Outrage in Canada over high profile cases of sexual violence, misogyny

Canadians called for tougher workplace laws and better education to combat sexual violence following a series of allegations against high profile public figures in the counrty. The incidents have sparked a national debate about how employers should respond to complaints against their staff, despite their high-profile status. CCTV America's Kristiaan Yeo had the report from Toronto.

A Canadian self-image of fairness and progressiveness was shattered when allegations of violence, sexual abuse and misogyny against high-profile Canadians exposed an unseemly, underlying social problem.

It began with the very public downfall of broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, who until recently was the golden boy of Canadian radio. His employer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, cut all ties with the star after witnessing what they call “graphic evidence” of a dark, violent side.

“They had video evidence that he provided them of his sexual encounters with women that were so violent that they said, we can’t have this attached to our leading brand,” said employment lawyer Howard Levitt.

Nine women and one man have come forward claiming they were choked, hit, or sexually harassed by Ghomeshi. Three have now lodged formal complaints with police, but he’s yet to face criminal charges. He denies any non-consensual activity.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party of Canada has suspended two members of parliament for alleged personal misconduct against fellow MPs. A former cabinet minister has also come forward with her own graphic story of sexual assault within the corridors of power.

“More and more people are coming forward, not merely at the CBC, but in my practice, on both sides of my practice: the employers side and employee side,” said Levitt. “They’re suddenly realizing that they are supported when they do come out in this country.”

There are signs of a growing intolerance to sexual harassment across the globe. Hidden camera footage showed the catcalls and advances leveled at a woman in New York and exposed the prevalence of domineering attitudes toward women. The video went viral, enraging not just women but men as well.

“I think it’s imperative for men to stand up and say, ‘We don’t want this for our daughters sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers. We want this world to be safe for everyone,'” said journalist and human rights advocate Sima Sahar Zerehi.

Some have said better education and support for victims is the first step. Provinces like Quebec and Ontario have faced pressure to increase sex education in schools. Others have pointed the finger at employers for failing to boldly, publicly and permanently take on the issue.

“The fact that some of these ideas are making headlines means that we’re actually going to transition to doing more than just giving lip service to talking around sexism and rape culture and violence against women,” said Zerehi. “We’re going to start looking at real policies, real education, we’re going to start looking into real policies, real education campaigns, real institutional changes are that are going to create a difference.”