Ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions de­served an in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Maria Lewis writes from Car­bon­ear

Brenda Sey­mour made nu­mer­ous sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions against the Spa­niard’s Bay Fire Depart­ment, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to the porn video.

The Mayor is­sued an apol­ogy to Ms. Sey­mour. This im­plies the SBFD is guilty of all the al­le­ga­tions, not just the porn video.

The video was so wrong. But does she de­serve an apol­ogy for all the al­le­ga­tions?

Yes, if all the al­le­ga­tions are true.

Are all the al­le­ga­tions true? We don’t know be­cause there was no in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

There are many unan­swered ques­tions. We specif­i­cally don’t know why 20 fire­fight­ers re­signed, al­though it’s im­plied it was be­cause of the sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions. That’s a very se­ri­ous charge.

As a no-brainer, Brenda Sey­mour de­serves to have all the al­le­ga­tions in­ves­ti­gated by a neu­tral, ex­pe­ri­enced in­ves­ti­ga­tor with spe­cial­ized knowl­edge. The peo­ple named in her com­plaint should have an op­por­tu­nity to re- spond. Find­ings should be made and rec­om­men­da­tions im­ple­mented.

At least I thought this was a no brainer. I was not ex­pect­ing the heated op­po­si­tion to this idea from some mem­bers of the “I DO NOT Sup­port Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment” Face­book page, which has more than 700 mem­bers and was started in re­sponse to and in sup­port of Brenda Sey­mour’s al­le­ga­tions.

I was added to this page and when I stated an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is needed be­fore blame is laid, the re­sponses were hos­tile. It was stated when a woman al­leges sex­ual ha­rass­ment, “you be­lieve her.” “There is NO ques­tion as to guilt or sides to take.” This pro­poses the SPFD is guilty; no ques­tions asked.

No one dis­agreed and I was shocked. Some peo­ple don’t get in­volved in on­line de­bates; I re­spect that. How­ever, per­haps some wor­ried they would be per­son­ally at­tacked if they dis­agreed. No won­der. I was told on­line that - My com­ments were “bulls**t, I was a “jerk,” “out to lunch” and a “trou­ble maker (or “s**t dis­turber.” I can’t re­call and can’t check be­cause I re­moved my­self from the site and it is now closed to the pub­lic). And my favourite; I ex­pose my chil­dren to porn!

I com­mented about the irony of the per­sonal at­tacks on an an­ti­ha­rass­ment site. No one re­sponded, on­line.

I com­mented about the irony of the per­sonal at­tacks on an anti-ha­rass­ment site. No one re­sponded, on­line.

Do peo­ple be­lieve sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions should be ac­cepted, no ques­tions asked? I am ab­horred by this. But I think I un­der­stand the ra­tio­nale be­hind it.

First, women ex­pe­ri­ence work­place sex­ual ha­rass­ment, es­pe­cially with in­creased num­bers of women in the trades. Women want it to stop.

Se­cond, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion tests the truth of the al­le­ga­tions.â ¨Third, sex­ual ha­rass­ment hurts; an in­ves­ti­ga­tion may pro­long or in­crease the pain.

Th­ese rea­sons are valid. But an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary for two rea­sons.

Firstly, women right­fully de­mand work­place equal­ity. As such, we must also ac­cept equal­ity in the process that would ap­ply to any se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tion.

If you were ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing the law and the ac­cu­sa­tion could ruin your ca­reer and per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion, you would not sup­port a sys­tem that de­nies you the right to re­spond. If it’s un­fair for you, it’s un­fair for ev­ery­one. That’s the trou­ble with equal­ity; it ap­plies to ev­ery­one equally.

Find­ing guilt with­out an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond is a dic­ta­tor­ship, not a democ­racy. Canada is built on the rule of law. The law ap­plies equally and con­sis­tently to ev­ery­one re­gard­less of gen­der, race or re­li­gion. Peo­ple lose faith if we ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem to treat peo­ple dif­fer­ently. Para­dox­i­cally, a woman will be doubted if we ac­cept her al­le­ga­tions, no ques­tions asked. Equal­ity slides back­wards if we de­mand pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. We should call it a fight for su­pe­ri­or­ity if we want dif­fer­ent stan­dards.

Woman can han­dle an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. We aren’t weak or de­fense­less. We have the law; we have strength; we have a voice. We aren’t afraid to be treated like men. That’s what we want.

Se­condly, in­ves­ti­ga­tions are nec­es­sary to en­sure no one is wrongly ac­cused. No fair and just so­ci­ety al­lows some­one to be ac­cused with­out a right to re­spond in a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion. You have a le­gal right to de­fend against a speed­ing ticket, but not a work­place sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tion? The place where you earn your liv­ing and sup­port your fam­ily?

Ev­ery­one in­volved de­serves an in­ves­ti­ga­tion; no ques­tions asked.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.