Harassment needs to end

Lethbridge Herald - - READER’S FORUM -

The is­sue of sex­ual mis­con­duct in the po­lit­i­cal realm con­tin­ues to garner head­lines. Last week added more fuel to the fire with Lib­eral MP Kent Hehr stepping down from the Trudeau cab­i­net after al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct, while the On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives saw leader Pa­trick Brown and party pres­i­dent Rick Dyk­stra re­sign for the same rea­sons.

The grow­ing litany of sim­i­lar com­plaints com­ing for­ward from fe­male politi­cians and staffers at var­i­ous lev­els of pol­i­tics has made it im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore that this is a wide­spread prob­lem, and one that needs to be ad­dressed.

Fed­eral Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Patty Ha­jdu said Mon­day that sex­ual harassment on Par­lia­ment Hill isn’t any­thing new, but she added it’s time to get se­ri­ous about sup­port­ing vic­tims and pre­vent­ing the abuse from hap­pen­ing.

“We talk a lot about get­ting women into pol­i­tics and if we can’t ac­tu­ally pro­tect the women staffers in our own work­places, we have a long ways to go,” said Ha­jdu.

Ha­jdu was com­ment­ing while open­ing de­bate on pro­posed leg­is­la­tion aimed at cre­at­ing fed­eral work­places where work­ers can be safe from sex­ual mis­con­duct as well as bullying and other forms of harassment.

The leg­is­la­tion would pro­vide wel­come sup­port for vic­tims of harassment while send­ing a mes­sage to po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors that such be­hav­iour won’t be tol­er­ated.

But the is­sue goes be­yond the halls of Par­lia­ment and the of­fices of fed­eral agen­cies. The peo­ple who en­gage in sex­ual mis­con­duct, bullying or other types of harassment are bring­ing those un­healthy at­ti­tudes with them into their work­places. It’s al­ready a part of their makeup and, per­haps for var­i­ous rea­sons, they feel it’s OK to in­flict this be­hav­iour on oth­ers.

For­mer B.C. pre­mier Christy Clark, in com­ment­ing on the is­sue of sex­ual mis­con­duct last week, noted that after 25 years in pol­i­tics, she was well ac­quainted with what she called “frat boy be­hav­iour.”

Such be­hav­iour is es­sen­tially the prod­uct of a lack of re­spect for oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly women, and these at­ti­tudes likely date back to the in­di­vid­u­als’ youth. That sug­gests the work to ad­dress the prob­lem needs to go be­yond the fed­eral work­places. It needs to start in schools and in homes to teach chil­dren proper re­spect for oth­ers, in­clud­ing women, with the hope that those health­ier at­ti­tudes will be car­ried on into adult­hood.

One should be able to ex­pect that most men would be em­bar­rassed to be­have in a boor­ish way in the com­pany of women, but the flood of al­le­ga­tions in re­cent months from var­i­ous sec­tors of so­ci­ety in­di­cate there are some men who think it’s OK to be­have badly around the op­po­site sex.

But such be­hav­iour is not OK and it shouldn’t be tol­er­ated. Women should be able to feel safe and se­cure, es­pe­cially in their work­places, and they should feel safe to be able to re­port cases when they are treated in a dis­re­spect­ful way. In fact, ev­ery­one should be able to feel safe in their work­places — safe from bullying and harassment.

As Ha­jdu stated, we have a long way to go, and in that case, there’s no bet­ter time to start im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion than right now.

Com­ment on this ed­i­to­rial on­line at www.leth­bridge­herald.com/opin­ions/.

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