This post was updated Oct. 31 with some new information that has come forward, particularly about how the CBC handled this affair.
When news broke on Friday that Jian Ghomeshi, one of CBC’s biggest personalities, was taking a leave for unspecified “personal reasons”, it seemed suspicious. When news broke on Sunday that the CBC had terminated its relationship with him, it seemed unbelievable. And then it got worse: a $55-million lawsuit, and reports of eight women (oh wait, make that nine) coming forward and saying he abused them, with stories that seem disturbingly similar.
I don’t have any exclusive reporting on the subject — Toronto media personalities are not my specialty and there are plenty of Toronto journalists covering that — but I’ve been seeing so many misinformed comments on social media that I thought it would be useful to round up what is being said and make a few points to better educate those who are talking about this. I’m not an expert in employment law, human sexuality or most other fields, so I’ll try to link to experts where possible. Feel free to suggest other points or improve existing ones if you’re more of an expert than me.
We don’t know all the facts, and probably never will
It’s a simple fact of human sexuality that it happens in private, and the only people who know what happens are those participating. We’ll have the versions of the parties involved, but unless there was a recording of the event, it comes down to a he-said-she-said, and we’re left to decide which side is more credible based on our personal opinions of them, our life experiences, statistics and generalizations, and our gut instincts. Many will take an educated guess at what probably happened, but nobody will know for sure. The two parties involved might even be telling the truth as they remember it.
So we get some people who blindly support Ghomeshi, or those who blindly support the women accusing him, even though they don’t know Ghomeshi, his accusers or the facts of the case.
The additional women coming forward have turned this into a he-said-she-said-she-said-she-said-she-said etc., which establishes a pattern. But while it paints a pretty clear picture of what kind of man Ghomeshi was, each individual case is different, and each still comes down to the testimony of one party contradicted by the other.
Nevertheless, the Toronto police are investigating, and if they can put a criminal case together, they will (UPDATE: Ghomeshi has been arrested.)
We don’t know exactly what the CBC knew about this before it fired Ghomeshi
Many people are wondering why there was no complaint filed with the CBC against Ghomeshi. There’s one case involving a person who was at the time a CBC employee. The Toronto Star story says she brought the matter up with a union representative, who brought it up with a producer. A National Post story says she brought it up directly with the executive producer, who gave her options and didn’t seem to take it too seriously.
There are some serious questions that need to be asked about this executive producer, and about the management culture at CBC. And other companies large and small should also look at their own office environments and ensure they don’t have a culture where women who are harassed or assaulted by people in power feel afraid to come forward. It’s one thing to have an official sexual harassment policy, but it’s another to have an environment where victims of actual harassment, no matter how severe, feel they can and should come forward and report it to superiors.
The CBC issued a memo to employees after this story broke saying they will act on workplace harassment. And it has hired an outside investigator to look into this story. As it should. With a personality as big as this, and the alleged abuses going on for so long, there’s an assumption that the CBC did not do enough to stop it. I don’t know if that’s true, but it needs to be investigated independently.
Remember that it was the CBC that fired him, prompting his Facebook post, which prompted the first Toronto Star story. We don’t know if it would have come out without that.
The CBC knew something was up with Ghomeshi months ago, according to the lawsuit, this Globe and Mail story and this Toronto Star story. But at that point, Ghomeshi’s claim that this was just an ex-girlfriend trying to ruin his career did not seem so far-fetched. There was no evidence at that point that there was physical violence involved, or that there was any pattern involving multiple victims.
But when Ghomeshi showed more evidence to the CBC, including apparently one or more graphic videos, things changed, and the corporation acted swiftly to take him off the air.
There’s a disturbing piece to that Globe story, which hasn’t been confirmed by the CBC, which says the broadcaster might not have fired him if he had expressed any remorse and said he would seek treatment. (The CBC has since said it did not give Ghomeshi the opportunity to walk away without disclosing why.)
And while I think the CBC is being unfairly blamed by some, I’m not letting it off the hook. The simple fact that is that it has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment to its employees, and it looks like that was not the case. A memo sent to employees also suggests that the CBC fired him more because of the physical injuries he caused than for the allegations that he engaged in non-consensual acts with those women (though the former can more easily be proven than the latter).
Executive vice-president Heather Conway sheds some more light on what senior management knew in this Globe interview and this CBC one, and suggests in hindsight they could have done more, but there was no evidence of assault, harassment, lack of consent or anything other than an ex-girlfriend wanting to publicly embarrass him.
The external investigation is a big step toward rectifying the situation, though I’m concerned that only its recommendations might be made public.
Questions also need to be asked about the CBC’s union, particularly after this disturbing account from Kathryn Borel, the former employee who has now come out publicly with her allegations, and says the union lied (or “was carefully parsing its words” in an attempt to mislead) about what was reported to it and its representatives.
Everyone didn’t have the same opinion about this — but now they’re almost unanimously against him
The think pieces that have come out of this story have tended to start with some statement that everyone is supporting Ghomeshi or that everyone is against him, as if to act as a devil’s advocate. But actual opinion was mixed when this first game out. And it’s not that the left was on his side, or women were against him, or CBC fans were defending the institution, or kinky people saw him as a hero. People’s opinions are not handcuffed to whatever demographic group you care to impose on them.
And public opinion has changed a lot in a week. His once staunchest defenders are deserting him. His PR companies have dumped him. Even his former band has issued a statement. No one wants to be associated with him anymore, or seen to be defending him.
Most sexual assaults go unreported, and for good reason
A common comment on social media (and occasional newspaper columns) is that the people accusing Ghomeshi of sexual assault are less credible because they did not report what happened to the police. But in reality that statement doesn’t tell us much, because the vast majority of sexual assaults don’t get reported. And that’s because the vast majority of sexual assault reports don’t result in convictions. It’s he-said-she-said, and our justice system doesn’t usually consider that enough to call someone a criminal. It’s not fair, but there isn’t a better alternative that still ensures innocent people don’t get imprisoned.
And that’s ignoring the cost to the accuser. We like to think that as a society we don’t blame the victim, but it’s still more humiliating to be sexually assaulted than to be mugged. And the criminal prosecution process only adds to that trauma, as defence lawyers try to find ways to discredit her and even try to put on her some or all of the responsibility for what happened. (That’s the way it’s supposed to work in our legal system.) As Christie Blatchford points out, the identities of victims of sexual assault are protected by a publication ban when a matter is before the courts. But that doesn’t solve the problem.
And there will always be those who will doubt the accuser’s story and defend the accused. And there will always be those who, even if they believe her and don’t blame her, will look at her differently because of what happened to her. That’s why many women (and some men) choose not to come forward.
There’s plenty of evidence of retaliation from Internet trolls and others that makes a reluctance to come forward entirely understandable.
False accusations exist, but estimates of the rate of false accusations put it somewhere between 2% and 8% of reports (and the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported). It’s hard to be certain because of the difficulty of proving whether an accusation is true or not.
That doesn’t make these accusations true. But it adds to the balance of probabilities weighing on the side of the accuser.
People exaggerate when defending themselves or making accusations against others
It’s human nature to downplay any evidence that doesn’t help make your case, anything that might mitigate your point. And you don’t have to lie to do this. This is how two reports of the same incident can be both true and contradictory.
Ghomeshi’s statement on Facebook (since deleted along with the rest of his account) seems very personal and embarrassing and therefore sympathetic, but it’s also one-sided by design. He hired a PR firm specializing in damage control during scandals, and the statement has to be read in that light, whether or not the company vetted or approved the content of the post. And even if we ignore that, he’s a veteran broadcaster who is known to have a way with words. He knows how to manipulate emotions with language.
Similarly, Ghomeshi’s accusers choose their facts. When the Toronto Star points out that the women accusing him are “educated and employed”, that’s to make them seem more credible. It’s completely irrelevant to whether what happened was consensual, but it makes a huge difference in how we see the accusers, the first of whom remained anonymous.
Sexual consent is awkward
In the movies, kisses happen without being asked for, sexual encounters tend not to involve much verbal communication beforehand. Things just happen, and we’re led to believe that consent is communicated telepathically. Even people with well-developed social skills can have trouble reading what the other person is feeling, which can lead to miscommunications. The fact that men are expected to take the initiative makes this even more problematic. But sitting down and talking about consent dispassionately is seen as unromantic. Society’s getting better at this, slowly, but we’re still far away from unromanticizing sex.
Sexual consent for BDSM is explicit and not something you can do by trial and error
People who engage in BDSM practices take consent very seriously. So they’ve learned that sitting down and having clear discussions before anything is done is important and necessary. Violent sex is something you discuss in detail in advance, not something you try out on someone and ask “did you like that?” And it’s not something you dismiss afterward if it didn’t go well.
If this was BDSM, Ghomeshi’s words and actions don’t make sense
Ghomeshi doesn’t get into too much detail about the nature of his encounters with women, and specifically who is the dominant and who is the submissive. He describes it as a “mild version of Fifty Shades of Grey” which suggests he was the dominant one. But the women accusing him are talking about him punching and slapping them on the face, which is hardly mild, consensual or not.
I’m no expert on such things, but I do know that this kind of role playing during sex is about the submissive party being in control, which is why trust is so important. Picking up girls at bars, bringing them home and asking if you can hit them doesn’t seem to fit with the way this usually works.
And those in the BDSM community also don’t see his statements adding up with those of his alleged victims, even if we believe that there was regular discussion of consent.
Add to that the fact that BDSM has been used as an excuse for violence against women before.
A first-person account posted last year that didn’t name Ghomeshi (but included enough detail about him that people quickly figured out it was him) paints a strong picture about his attitude toward consent. If we assume it’s telling the truth, it indicates someone who is terrible at reading women and doesn’t take no for an answer easily. It’s not that the actions as reported there are so outrageous — they could even be forgiven — but they are wildly incompatible with someone who asserts that he is careful about consent.
Ghomeshi’s implication that he can prove consent through text messages or other evidence is also puzzling. As Dan Savage points out, consent to X is not consent to Y, and consent can be revoked at any time, whether it’s plain vanilla sex or the most violent of BDSM.
And that’s one thing that really gets me about this: Even if we assume these women are jilted exes who consented to everything and are now changing their minds retroactively, how did Ghomeshi not see any red flags about their behaviour during their supposed regular conversations about consent? BDSM requires a heightened level of intimacy and a lot of communication, and yet we’re expected to believe that with all of that Ghomeshi missed not one but multiple partners having whatever personality disorder caused them to decide to make up stories about him.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if it’s true then Ghomeshi really needs to re-evaluate his approach to his sexual escapades.
Not everyone Ghomeshi got kinky with it thinks it was abuse
Sex expert Dan Savage speaks with one of Ghomeshi’s former partners who backs his claim, says they had conversations about consent, that he was careful, and that she liked what he did to her.
Savage remains skeptical, not believing that she’s lying, but suggesting that her situation is different because they happened to be compatible, and because their physical distance and regular communication meant they had more time to establish what they would do to each other before they did it.
Many things are similar with the other tales: she’s in her 20s, he was dominant and he liked to slap her.
To me, this story also suggests something important about Ghomeshi’s state of mind: If these stories are all true, then it seems as though Ghomeshi doesn’t do these things because he wants to be a monster, but he does them because he’s narcissistic enough to believe that despite everything they’ve said, the women actually like it. And that’s scary.
You can’t legally consent to assault that causes bodily harm
Legal experts point out that the Supreme Court has determined that consent is not always a defence for assault. And severe forms of BDSM, such as punching, can be illegal even if the victim literally asked for it.
This is not the same as an adultery scandal
I realize that in the media, there are tendencies to be both brief (using as few words as possible) and safe (not implying a crime has been committed when there has been no conviction), but the term “sex scandal” puts this story on the same level as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, David Letterman and other people for whom the scandal is about cheating on their wives. That makes them dicks, but it’s not illegal. What Ghomeshi is being accused of is far more serious than a “sex scandal”.
Sexual preferences are not a human right
“Sexual preferences are a human right,” Ghomeshi says, trying to put liking BDSM on par with being gay and wanting the same protections against discrimination. But while I don’t think people’s private sexual fantasies should affect their employment (if it did, we’d all be fired), there’s no “human right” to them, either in the Canadian charter or in UN treaties. What we think is protected, but what we do is not. There’s no human right to strike another person.
What’s the motive?
Ghomeshi blames the entire affair on “false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer” who doesn’t like him. That seems pretty weak as a potential motive. But it’s possible. Maybe he managed to piss off someone he was dating so much that she decided she would end his career and make up allegations against him. Or maybe he dated someone crazy enough to do this. And maybe there’s a freelance writer out there pissed off enough to join in that fight.
(It’s generally accepted that this writer is Jesse Brown, host of Canadaland and a former CBC contributor, who approached the Star and wrote the first story with its investigations reporter Kevin Donovan. I was a guest on his show recently. And while I may not agree with everything he says, nothing about his behaviour suggests to me that he would put aside his journalistic ethics to engage in a smear campaign.)
But the more people who say he did something wrong, the more we have to ask why they would lie about it. The first ones to come forward did not do so publicly, so they’re not in it to get attention. Ghomeshi would probably have mentioned any attempt at extortion.
I’m not saying false rape accusations are not made. They are. But they’re rare for the same reasons that reports of rape rarely make it to police. If this is an invented scandal by one person, it’s an epic con job.
In cases like this, there’s never just one victim
When the story first broke on Sunday, I thought of this episode of the TV series Law & Order. From the third season, it tells the story of a doctor who rapes his patients. A psychologist who works for the district attorney’s office decides to make herself bait to prove it, and does. But the conviction is thrown out by the judge.
Vindicated, the doctor says on the courthouse steps that he doesn’t rape women.
Cut to the next scene, and the doctor meets with the assistant district attorney again. A large stack of papers gets dropped on the desk, as one ADA explains: “54 women you either raped, molested, or abused.”
The other chimes in: “In the future, sir, stay off the evening news.”
I thought to myself, reading the first Ghomeshi story: If this is real, more women will come forward. Because there would almost certainly be more women. And the man who abused them is calling them liars. And because some have already come forward, they’re more likely to be believed. And because they’re not the only victim here. Pretending like it didn’t happen won’t make it go away. And if they don’t do something now, it could happen again. Whispering warnings to your friends isn’t enough.
Sure enough, within days more women came forward. As I write this, the count is nine, including two who put their names to it. Toronto police are encouraging more to report cases of abuse, whether they involve Ghomeshi or anyone else.
That doesn’t make it absolutely certain that Ghomeshi is guilty. But his claim of a conspiracy against him gets weaker and less credible the more people come forward.
Jian Ghomeshi is a 47-year-old public figure dating women in their 20s, and that’s creepy
Ghomeshi admits that the ex-girlfriend he speaks of was in her 20s, and other stories also involve women significantly younger than him. While I don’t condemn such relationships outright, when combined with his prestigious position as a major CBC personality, the fact that these women likely see him as an authority figure, the usual male-female power dynamic and the fact that apparently Ghomeshi is the dominant one in this BDSM relationship, the difference in maturity paints a more disturbing picture.
Even if Ghomeshi is not the employer of these women, or using his power directly to offer them career advancement in exchange for sex (and some cases allege that he preyed on young employees or those who wished to work at Q), the power dynamic means that Ghomeshi would need to be even more careful about ensuring proper consent, which he either failed to do or did from someone whose statements can’t be trusted.
Ghomeshi’s $55-million lawsuit will probably never get to trial, and he’s very unlikely to win it
As labour lawyer Howard Levitt explains, if Ghomeshi is a unionized employee (and his lawsuit says he is) then the court will defer to the grievance process set out in the collective agreement. And even if he’s right, this won’t end with the CBC giving his old job back. The relationship — and Ghomeshi himself — have become too toxic.
The $55 million figure is pulled out of nowhere and meaningless. It’s way more than anyone has ever received for defamation. And since most cases end with out-of-court settlements, this one likely won’t get to that point either, unless Ghomeshi is so desperate that he feels winning such a lawsuit is the only way to save his career.
Or maybe the lawsuit itself is simply a way of getting things on the record without the risk of being sued himself. It’s certainly as much a PR move as it is a legal one. Ghomeshi doesn’t need the money as much as he needs his reputation.
UPDATE: The lawsuit has been withdrawn.
Ghomeshi’s first Facebook post was either a great PR move or a horrible one, or both
A lot of people have suggested that Ghomeshi’s 1,600-word Facebook post was a PR move, the work of high-stakes PR firm Navigator, which he had hired to advise him.
There were certainly PR advantages to his post. It allowed him to shape the story early, and get the public on his side. But it was also a public statement that opened the floodgates. Without it, a lot of what has come out might never have been made public.
Navigator has since dumped Ghomeshi as a client. Whether this is because he wouldn’t do as they say or because he was just too toxic to associate with, we don’t know. But a Toronto Star story quotes a source saying the company believes Ghomeshi lied to them.
Rock-It Promotions, another PR firm, also dumped Ghomeshi.
Ghomeshi is not like any employee
People have said that if they were doing kinky stuff at home, it would be none of their employer’s business. And that may be true. But Ghomeshi is not like a claims adjuster at an insurance company or an assembly-line worker at a factory. He’s a public face of the CBC. His job is hired by “casting” decisions, as another CBC employee described such decisions to me. Even in the unlikely event that Ghomeshi saves his employment, his position as host of Q is gone for good, and he has no guaranteed right to it.
Ghomeshi is accusing the CBC of breach of confidence
One thing that is underreported about this case is one of the main reasons that Ghomeshi is suing the CBC is for breach of confidence. Simply put, Ghomeshi says he brought the accusations against him to his employer’s lawyers so they could mount a joint defence, and the CBC then used this information as cause to fire him.
Regardless of what you think of Ghomeshi’s actions, if this allegation is true it is worrisome. It could discourage future proactive disclosures, and encourage people to keep secrets from their employers. Ghomeshi trusted the CBC and now alleges it betrayed that trust.
We’ll see if the CBC accuses Ghomeshi of being a crazy jilted ex-employee.
The CBC is not stupid, and it does not fire its biggest star for no reason
The CBC is known for a lot of things, not all of them good. It’s excessively bureaucratic, top-heavy, left-wing, too cautious. And yet we’re expected to believe the company fired one of its biggest personalities without cause after months of investigation and discussion.
I’m not saying the CBC is necessarily right here. It’s made poor decisions in the past. But it’s also learned from those decisions. Its experience with Sook-Yin Lee in 2006 seems on-point here. She wasn’t fired even though she engaged in activities outside of her work that might not be perceived as family-friendly.
And the public broadcaster had to be well aware that it would likely be sued if it came down like this, or a grievance filed that might reverse their decision.
But they’re also aware that if Ghomeshi did something else in the future, something that could be proven, and that it came out that it did nothing about previous allegations, that could put it into even more trouble.
Q was a good show, but that’s not relevant
CBC hasn’t cancelled Q. It’s running with guest hosts for the time being. And it still has a lot of staff keeping it running. The show wasn’t just Ghomeshi. But he was the face of it, so we don’t know how it will change without him.
Jonathan Kay talks about what makes the show good. But as he points out, it’s not relevant to whether Ghomeshi is an abuser of women. (Nor, should I add, is the decision to invite someone on the show who had controversial comments about sexual assault that were condemned as victim-blaming.)
From Woody Allen to Roman Polanski to Bill Cosby, we are tempted to disbelieve when people we admire (particularly artists in showbusiness) get accused of doing awful things. Even if we know very little about these people personally.
Imagine if this wasn’t Jian Ghomeshi but some random person nobody knew. Imagine a bunch of women came forward and accused him of assaulting them. And he said he didn’t do it. How likely would it be that you believe his side?
We as a society have dehumanized rape, made it seem as if sexual assault and violent acts are only committed by awful people, and that it’s easy to determine who’s an awful person just by looking at their face. In reality, anyone can be a rapist, even someone who seems like such a nice, well-read and well-liked guy.
Despite all this, we still don’t know all the facts
The circumstantial case is very bad for Ghomeshi. So many factors push the odds in favour of his accusers. But there remains no proof that he acted without consent, just as there is no proof that he acted with consent. In the end, it still comes down to he said vs. she said.
It’s not enough in a court of law, but the court of public opinion has far lower standards.
So if the allegations against Ghomeshi are false, I hope some proof comes to light, so that he can finally be exonerated. And if they’re true, I hope proof comes to light there as well, so that doubts can be washed away. Because…
This is about far more than Jian Ghomeshi
This case is one among countless that involve an accusation of sexual assault. But its circumstances and its wide reach in the public eye make it one of the more important. Can women feel safe bringing accusations against men in power? Can public personalities be fired for their consensual sexual activities? How do we determine what qualifies as legal consent in a BDSM situation? How can we prove that an allegation of sexual assault is not false?
Rape and sexual assault are tough to prove, tough to prosecute in this legal system, and subject to so many standards that prevent justice from being applied equally.
And the saddest part of this story is that there seems to be no easy way to fix that situation, and so this high-profile case will likely do little to change it.
But that doesn’t make me any less grateful for those who have come forward, about this case or others.
Steve your piece is extensively thought out and well written.
1) Regarding “http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/non-date
When you reread it, do you get the impression that the author is very heavy on her own perceptions & again Her Own Reactions To These
Perceptions and Never Taking into account that
The other side wasn’t receiving 90%+ of this internal dialogue she may have been having with
herself? (still doesn’t forgive grabbing her butt).
Honestly, I read that story when it first came out, and it didn’t seem to be much more than guys being creeps and not clueing in to uninterested women. I’m not defending the actions of the man described there, but I can accept that much of it might be due to a misunderstanding.
But as I write above, it doesn’t speak well to someone who says he’s very attentive to consent issues that he can’t pick up on when his date is uncomfortable with his presence and politely rejects all his advances.
it’s odd how we brush it off
whereas we know that if that were our daughter or our sister we would not chalk it up to … a misunderstanding
It was assault
Sure, but there are levels of severity in assault, from unwanted touching to rape and attempted murder. The worst thing he was accused of in that particular story was grabbing a butt during a date. It’s creepy, and I wouldn’t want my sister dating that guy, but it’s hardly career-ending.
Are you a lawyer? It would be relevant to know why CBC did not have documentation about the complaint since the union was also involved. Was it swept under the rug? Is CBC and its narrators, including lawyers writing opinions, trying to protect CBC in its responsibilities under Human Rights legislation?
Obviously I have no inside information about this (including whether there was a complaint in the first place). But the most obvious explanation is that the complaint was given and handled informally, with no written report. It’s not unusual or complaints to be handled this way. People don’t do these things to get the other person in trouble, they just want it to stop.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, employers have a legal obligation to take steps to prevent and respond to breaches of the Human Rights Code, including sexual harassment. Obviously, CBC did not take their legal duty seriously and brushed the complaint aside. Coincidentally, the victim who voiced the complaint left employment shortly after. It would be interesting to find out the circumstances of her departure. FYI, my career was ruined over seuxal harrassment by senior managers in a large Government corporation, whom I named as defendants at a Human Rights Tribunal Hearing, who also ignored my complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination. Perhaps you don’t know better, but this isn’t about ‘getting ‘someone in trouble,’ it’s about human rights. Furthermore, if, as you say, it’s not unusual that harrassment complaints are handled in this manner, then most employers are negligent in their duty by contravening law, and the Ontario Government has failed in administering the Human Rights Code.
No, it’s not obvious. For one, there’s no evidence that any complaint was made to the CBC. The only reference to a complaint was one made to a fellow employee who was neither a CBC manager nor a union representative.
I’m not arguing that “this” is “about” something. I’m saying that people make complaints informally. Whether you agree with that or not, it happens.
I’m speaking about behavioural complaints in general, not sexual harassment complaints specifically. And I’m not referring to how the employer handles the complaint, but rather the complainant. It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure there’s an environment where people can come forward with complaints, but that doesn’t guarantee that complaints will be made.
Your points regarding the complainant pertaining to sexual harrassent at CBC is inconsistent and uninformed between your response to me and in your article, under “We don’t know if anyone came forward to the CBC about this”, with the Toronto Star, and also with your response to Mario D, stating, “How do you know his job is spotless? If he had been harassing women in the workplace, that would hardly be spotless.”
Also, I believe your article would present more rounded information if it included employer’s obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code legislation.
I don’t believe so. We still don’t know if anyone filed a complaint with the CBC. The CBC says there was no formal complaint. The union and the Toronto Star say there was a complaint but it was not a formal one and not done through official channels.
Here from the Toronto Star:
“The woman later complained about Ghomeshi to her union representative at the CBC, who told her he reported her complaints to a CBC manager and to the executive producer of Q . She did not file a formal grievance.
She says she was called to a meeting with Q ’s executive producer to discuss her complaints, whom she says asked her “what (she) could do to make this a less toxic work environment?”
To her knowledge, Ghomeshi was never reprimanded for the incidents.”
Does this sound to you like CBC practiced due diligence putting the responsibility back on the employee’s shoulders, and not following up with the complaint?
No, but the union told The Canadian Press that the person complained to was not in fact a union representative and the person was unaware of the union’s and CBC’s policy on such complaints. I have no reason to disbelieve the union and CBC until more information comes to light.
We can talk about whether the CBC or the union fostered a culture where people felt they could come forward. But I’m not yet convinced that CBC management failed to deal with a formal complaint.
A blog post written by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin, called “Do you know about Jian?” describes how women across the country would exchange warnings “tapped out in texts and Twitter direct messages between old friends, or between kindred spirits newly met” to be careful with Ghomeshi. It is impossible to believe that CBC did not know about it.
One is led to question what your role is defending CBC throughout your responses.
The third party inquiry will have to offer some credible and concrete answers for CBC to maintain any credibility.
I disagree. The reason why this information was passed around as rumours was precisely because no one wanted to go to CBC management about it. And even if someone did share this rumour with someone who acts as an authority figure at CBC, I don’t see what CBC is expected to do with a vague, anonymous rumour.
I also don’t know how many “women across the country” were aware of this rumour.
Obviously I’ve been bought off by them. That’s the only explanation.
That seems logical. If the inquiry is not credible, then the CBC’s decision to engage it is not credible. But it’s unclear how much if any of the investigation will be made public. And if it is, what it will include.
“The reason why this information was passed around as rumours was precisely because no one wanted to go to CBC management about it. And even if someone did share this rumour with someone who acts as an authority figure at CBC, I don’t see what CBC is expected to do with a vague, anonymous rumour.”
Case in point. You responded earlier to me that you are not a lawyer, so I will accept that you are not familiar with human rights law, but CBC certainly has a duty to know that they are responsible for their employees’ welfare with any signals or word whatsoever of human rights contraventions. And there were plenty.
“But it’s unclear how much if any of the investigation will be made public. And if it is, what it will include.”
CBC is a $1 billion publicly funded Canadian broadcaster. Fifty-one cents out of every dollar is funded by our taxpayer dollars, so they should be accountable to the public. If they are not, then the public can get the information from Freedom of Information requests. I hope they are not insulated from their obligations to their employees and public and provide an open and full response to the public.
CBC is absolutely responsible for keeping its employees safe, and for their working conditions. But I’m still waiting for evidence of these “signals” that management was supposedly aware of.
The CBC has a reputation of getting out of FOIA requests, usually citing its journalistic or programming exception. Whether such a report can be made public will likely depend on how personal it is about Ghomeshi. Matters of employee discipline are usually protected. We’ll see if this report is similarly protected.
“Matters of employee discipline are usually protected. We’ll see if this report is similarly protected.”
Let’s hope that this does not stop with CBC and that reports are filed with the police.
PS I just learned watching Ezra Levant at the Sun that in 2012, Brian Lilley asked about 1454 pages of internal memos of sexual harrassments cases at CBC– one cbc manager said there were so many cases they lost track of them. This would be a good start for the ‘third party’ investigation firm to examine.
Don’t forget that Ghomeshi himself revealed that “CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months” before they fired him. Why would CBC have even considered to shield him? How could they have even considered to work with him in light of a sexual harrassment complaint in his own office? CBC has a lot to answer to.
Lens111 reminds us, below, that Ghomeshi revealed that the CBC was supporting him and planning to protect him. We have HIS word for that, and the CBC has not, I believe, confirmed or denied his statement. We do not know that if and when the CBC consulted lawyers about Ghomeshi, that they were doing so as an attempt to protect him from any real or false accusations.
“Protect” is a bit of a loaded word here. It had planned to defend him until it learned that his activities included causing physical injury to women.
CBC should be charged for criminal acts, including the CEO and HR lying to a Parliamentary Committee. In 2013, the CEO denied all allegations of sexual harassment at CBC. http://blogs.canoe.ca/davidakin/culture/cbcs-president-in-2013-dismissed-all-allegations-of-sexual-harassment-in-toronto/
In addition, this is what Ghomeshi said in his facebook, “CBC has been part of the team of friends and lawyers assembled to deal with this for months. ”
Just drop your attempts at defending CBC as it is clearly over your head.
What exactly do you think they lied about? Do you have evidence they were aware of reports of sexual harassment that they didn’t disclose to the committee?
Here’s an excerpt of just one example of many quoted from Huffington Post:
“Over on Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast the media critic spoke to former Q producer Roberto Veri, who said “we all knew about Jian” and apologized.
Veri says he saw the sexual harassment incident that was described in the an Oct. 26 Toronto Star article, in which a woman alleged Ghomeshi said he wanted to “hate f— her” and “cupped her buttocks.”
“I FB messenger’d her to tell her that I was sorry that I didn’t do anything, that I saw it first of all because I turned my head away when he went up behind her. She was leaning over her desk between the corridor of the executive producer’s office and her desk. So she was leaned over contrary to where she sat. And she’s bending over working on some papers. And he came up behind her, grabbed her by the waist and humped her four or five times. He drove his pelvis into her buttocks and a big smile on his face. So I looked over at that and just sort of put my head down again. I didn’t know what the nature of the relationship was or if she was okay. When stuff like that does happen…
I think he might have even looked over at me when I turned my head. I was there. It felt like an episode of HBO’s Rome where they do anything in front of the slaves. I was apologizing to her. She said, ‘If you back me up’ because the union has no record. I witnessed it. This is the only reason I’m weighing into this matter is because I love that person and I was sorry that I didn’t ask about it afterwards. I ignored it.”
The anonymous woman Veri was referring to also elaborated on the alleged 2010 incident in the National Post, where she said she informed an executive producer.
“[His] comment to me was …’He’s never going to change, you’re a malleable person, let’s talk about how you can make this a less toxic work environment for you. No one was going to talk to Jian, he was too big. The show was a f—-ing juggernaut at that point. His face and name were inextricably linked with the brand of Q.”
In a story about the culture of fear at Q, a female CBC co-worker of Jian’s was quoted to say, “‘The general vibe was people were protecting Jian,’ the woman said in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity over fears of a reprisal from Mr. Ghomeshi. ‘No one wants to make a fuss around this guy.'”
the second question:
2) Does anyone know if Mr. Ghomeshi participated in the revenues from the syndication of the 180 American stations carrying his show (outside of his unionized
position) as a private contractor?
– I didn’t say it was likely
I asked if anyone knew.
I am so confused about that story…
I too would tend to think that the CBC could not have taken such a decision lightly although…why say that he took time away from his job when he was actually fired ?
Because this is not an ordinary John Doe here. This guy is big ,very popular and is if not their biggest name at least their biggest star .
I somehow disagree with you though about this not being about Q. It is because unless there is nothing to bring him in court for, then it must be about his work ! And his job is spotless and very very good.
Still this whole thing does not make sense any way we look at it. At least we are certain of only one thing, there is something missing here ,something we do not know but something big because the CBC would not have put itself in such a situation without getting legal advices from every sources possible since hopefully they were aware that this would not go unnoticed… For now the more we know , the more obscure it gets…
The lawsuit states that he was put on leave on Friday and then fired on Sunday.
How do you know his job is spotless? If he had been harassing women in the workplace, that would hardly be spotless.
I agree about me not knowing and we all are guessing. But isn`t that an ugly game ? Things are coming out east and west and the only sure thing is that every comment is based on shaky grounds and just does not make us feel as if all this is justified.
Yes it is. So let’s not make assertions without evidence. The evidence we have here as far as his conduct at work is that at least two CBC employees say he harassed them, the CBC fired him for cause, and he says the allegations are untrue and is appealing this decision.
It seems to get better or uglier by the minute. His p.r. firm dropped him, he said he would make a public comment soon and even Lucy from Trailer Park Boys is involved…
As you say there is nothing left or good to assume now…
You should be reading a certain Montreal radio personality’s facebook page right now. Let’s just say the “Droppings” are falling really fast.
My thoughts on this one are actually pretty simple:
Jian’s rather lengthy admission post on Facebook is one of those things where on the surface you think “wow, he’s really coming clean”, and then you realize that it’s way more of a PR thing. Then you start to thinking “how bad is reality if he is willing to admit all of this on the first go around?”.
The stories out there from the other side are creepy, scary, and very sadly ring true. Based on them, I don’t that the CBC had a whole lot of choice in the matter. You only have to consider the story if it went the other way (“CBC Supports host with creepy sexual history”) to understand that the CBC needs to get as far away from this as possible.
His big lawsuit to me reads more like another cover up, an attempt to quickly shift the story away from his reported actions, and onto trying to get the public to choose between the sweet radio host and the big evil government funded corporation. Two very aggressive actions in a very short period of time, both intended to change the focus of the story is perhaps the biggest story of them all.
Will the media fall for it?
Just imagine at a radio station that’s not unionized or a public cooperation.
Re: the xo thing: Seriously, Take a moment and read it again. But this time pretend you’re him.
You don’t see a gay image. You have No Idea that
this woman is reviled by you’re presence and scent from the Very Second You Show Up. You think she’s talking fast because she’s
giddy, shy, maybe nervous.
Read every line as if you have no clue and seperate her Internal Revulsive Comentary with
her External actual efforts to hide her true reactions and inner feelings.
If you’re capable of doing this see how far you get
Before you are Sure – He should have caught that.
After I Rereviewed her sequenced experience she came off like a pathetic self obsessed immature girl/woman who knows nothing about men & even less about herself.
As far as he is concerned his behaviour is marked
by a total lack of insight combined with the desperation to succeed And to be accepted.
If this were a new type of inter gender Olympic
Competition for Stupidity they would both tie for the Gold Medal.
Go ahead give the exercise a go.
Like I said, I could maybe see *some* of his alleged actions during this encounter as being the result of misunderstanding. But I’m not him, and I wouldn’t act that way. I also don’t engage in violent acts and pretend to have detailed discussions with my sexual partners establishing consent before engaging in BDSM activities.
That’s what bothers me about the story: It’s not the story itself, which only establishes that he’s creepy and unable to take a hint. It’s that we’re to believe the person in this story is the same one who is careful about consent when it comes to his kinky stuff. Does that really make sense?
He is likely “careful about consent” in the same manner that he is sensitive to her other feelings. Does that mean as an example that anything less than a screaming no while spray mace in his face is a yes?
He comes off as remarkably tone deaf when it comes to these things. The picture painted by the victim is of a man who is boorish, self-centered, and totally unaware of just how creepy he really is. It doesn’t look very good.
It looks like it’s becoming a moot point.
Indicating the women are educated and employed is very relevant in supporting their claim of non-consent. The inherent bias of disbelieving accusers, is as you previously laid out, before you equated these women’s self-qualification of their citizenship with Ghomeshi’s PR strategies in Facebook post. As you said, there is a stigma associated with victims of sexual assault. If they are not educated or gainfully employed women, they’re assumed to be hookers, gold diggers, or don’t risk their own status at work and social standings (as result of their education) when going up against a man coddled by CBC for a long time. Seriously consult the nuances blogged by insiders of this circle of the many gray areas that stonewall almost everything except whispered innuendo among young women to protect themselves while climbing the corporate ladder within the same universe of Ghomeshi.
There have been public relations analysis, legal analysis, personal analysis etc… but have you seen any mental health analysis? These breaks and/or dissociations are very scary especially when twinned with being charming in public. Thoughts?
No. It’s hard to diagnose someone without meeting them.
Also, I have been told he has recently left the country? Has this be confirmed? This could indicate taking a needed break or fear of criminal prosecution… thoughts?
It has been reported. It has not been confirmed.
Ghomeshi has not been charged with any crime. And the United States has an extradition treaty with Canada. I highly doubt he’s trying to flee prosecution.
With regards to the graphic videos that Ghomeshi showed to CBC as proof of consensual sex(that ended up getting him fired from the CBC), does the CBC currently have copies of those videos? Those graphic videos, Ghomeshi is in them(has that been established yet or just rumours)?
This was just one of several articles that I read on the Ghomeshi controversy, and (next to the Toronto Star’s reporting) the best thus far. You address every point in this story and give us information we should all consider. Although I have no questions to ask, I wanted to offer some praise.
Well done Steve!
Thoughtful and considered writing.
Well done, both for the article, and in your back and forth with this Lens111 character. If he was a lawyer, he would understand that while their is mounting evidence against the CBC, everyone deserves the opportunity to defend themselves, and to a formal rebuttal. This is obviously a highly inflammatory situation, that must be handled very carefully for a variety of reasons. There is a process to go through to avoid witch hunts, which this Lens individual seems ready to lead.
Now where did I say that Ghomeshi should not have a right to defend himself? Even though most citizens know, especially those who do not have money and power, that we have a two-tier justice system, I believe very strongly in upholding every ciiizen’s democratic rights because mine were not upheld by the justice system you speak of. Furthermore, on one hand you are defending Ghomeshi his right to pursue justice, but on the other hand, you are trying to deny and suppress my right to an opinion. Do you believe in criminalizing and politicizing free speech? What are you afraid of?
Lens111, relax buddy. you have a clear agenda, as I do on other topics. save your fire for people who care about oppressing whatever it is you are trying to say. I was simply giving a thumbs up to Fagstein for staying on point.
“Lens111, relax buddy. you have a clear agenda, as I do on other topics. save your fire for people who care about oppressing whatever it is you are trying to say. I was simply giving a thumbs up to Fagstein for staying on point.”
I am not your buddy, and I do not have an agenda other than disabusing misconceptions about sexual harassment because of the fate I suffered after over 32 years of outstanding employment when I was subsequently employed with a fairly new job with a large municipal government corporation. My employer, as is CBC attempting to do, also insulated management, used a Bay Street lawyer to whitewash my case, and colluded with my lawyer, and other lawyers I initially contacted to manage my case and defeat me at a Human Rights Tribunal Hearing. To my misfortune, I experienced cybserstalking which included threatening and intimidatory messages and have been blacklisted from employment.
Sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, jokes about sexual harassment or other verbal and/or physical conduct is primarily made by males, and destroys women’s lives and well-being when such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly as a condition of employment. Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged behaviour reported by numerous women he was involved with socially and dated, and also in the workplace has the purpose of intimidating, objectifying, embarrassing and dominating women.
Fagstein is not on at all on point and his article and responses clearly demonstrates that he has no understanding of the Human Rights Code and employment law. Such articles misinform the public and do a disservice to women and discriminated individuals.
Can you elaborate on this? Did the employment lawyer I cited get something wrong, or is my interpretation of what he said faulty in some way?
The CBC knew something was up with Ghomeshi months ago, according to the lawsuit, this Globe and Mail story and this Toronto Star story. But at that point, Ghomeshi’s claim that this was just an ex-girlfriend trying to ruin his career did not seem so far-fetched. There was no evidence at that point that there was physical violence involved, or that there was any pattern involving multiple victims.
Above, you said CBC knew something was up months ago, but they failed to act suggesting later that there was no evidence to point to physical violence. You failed to mention the staff person who complained about harassment by Ghomeshi, although you believed, that she did not complain formally. The following excerpt is from the Ontario Human Rights Commission outlining employers’ responsibilities:
“The ultimate responsibility for maintaining an environment free from sexual harassment rests with employers, housing providers, educators and other responsible parties covered by the Code. From a human rights perspective, it is not acceptable to choose to stay unaware of sexual harassment, whether or not a human rights claim has been made.
Organizations and institutions operating in Ontario have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and respond to breaches of the Code, including sexual harassment. Employers, housing providers, educators and other responsible parties must make sure they maintain poison-free environments that respect human rights…ere is a clear human rights duty not to condone or further a discriminatory act that has already happened. To do so would extend or continue the life of the initial discriminatory act. This duty extends to people who, while not the main actors, are drawn into a discriminatory situation through contractual relations or in other ways…Depending on the circumstances, employers, housing providers, educators and other responsible parties may be held liable for the actions of third parties (such as customers, contractors, etc.) who engage in sexually harassing behaviour. 
Human rights decision-makers often find organizations liable, and assess damages, based on the organization’s failure to respond appropriately to address discrimination and harassment. An organization may respond to complaints about individual instances of discrimination or harassment, but they may still be found to have not responded appropriately if the underlying problem is not resolved. There may be a poisoned environment, or an organizational culture that condones sexual harassment, despite punishing the individual harassers. In these cases, organizations must take further steps, such as training and education, to better address the problem. An organization has a legal duty to respond to a complaint of sexual harassment, and may be found liable for not doing so, even where the complaint is ultimately not made out.”
For your information, the anti-harassment and violence provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act support the Human Rights Code.
Without going into more detail, review this response and my responses to you above with the lawyer you consulted.
I don’t disagree with this. The CBC clearly has some responsibility here. I’m not suggesting otherwise.
Part 2 of reply
From Ontario Human Rights Commission:
“Employers have a duty to ensure a poison-free work environment and to take steps to make sure that sexual harassment is not taking place in their workplace. Once they learn of sexual harassment, employers must take immediate action to remedy the situation. If the employer is satisfied the harassment has happened, they must consider both disciplinary action and further prevention steps, such as training or education.
Under section 46.3 of the Code, a corporation, trade union or occupational association, unincorporated association or employers’ organization will be held responsible for discrimination, including acts or omissions, committed by employees or agents in the course of their employment. This is known as vicarious liability. Vicarious liability may make an employer responsible for discrimination arising from the acts of its employees or agents, done in the normal course, whether or not it had any knowledge of, participation in, or control over these actions.
Vicarious liability does not apply to breaches of the sections of the Code dealing with harassment. However, since the existence of a poisoned environment is a form of discrimination, when harassment amounts to or results in a poisoned environment, vicarious liability under section 46.3 of the Code will apply.
In these cases, the “organic theory of corporate liability” may also apply. Under this theory, an organization may be liable for acts of harassment carried out by its employees if it can be proven that it was aware of the harassment, or the harasser is shown to be part of the management or “directing mind” of the organization. In such cases, an organization will be liable for the decisions, acts or omissions of the employee where:
the employee who is part of the “directing mind” engages in harassment or inappropriate behaviour that violates the Code
the employee who is part of the “directing mind” does not respond adequately to harassment or inappropriate behaviour they are aware of, or should reasonably be aware of.
Generally speaking, managers and central decision-makers in an organization are part of the “directing mind.” People with only supervisory authority may also be part of the “directing mind” if they act, or are seen to act, as representatives of the organization. Even non-supervisors may be considered part of the “directing mind” if they in effect have supervisory authority or significant responsibility for guiding employees.”
This Sir (Steve) is the best piece I read on the subject, and many other subject, in a long while. Truly objective, honest, non partisan, yet non apologetic of the bad in the world, legally realistic, I could go on and on.
Thank you, I am your new follower.
Thank you for this article… it is really helpful in providing perspective regarding this situation.
1) I think more could be said about why CBC might need to act to protect potential future victims from a person who leverages his job related publicity, social connections and work hours in pursuit of his “private” bedroom exploits. The “public” broadcaster of the CBC cannot be clearly delineated from the “private” bedroom activities in this case.
2) Regarding CBC allegedly breaching Ghomeshi’s confidence – It could be the case that what from Jian’s perspective “exonerates himself,” from another (perhaps more objective) perspective actually is very problematic and incriminating. We cannot know for sure, not knowing what was released. However, I think it is fair for a company to act on information provided (even if that was by an employee acting on “good faith”), if that information is actually quite damaging and problematic from the perspective of the corporation.
The Big-Ears Teddy stuff is pretty hard to dismiss. Hard to cook that up among several victims, much less travel back in time to April. https://twitter.com/bigearsteddy/with_replies
I think I’ve seen and heard enough.
Great piece- I think it’s valuable to have this systematic presentation of the facts, in an admirably non-partisan style. Your isolated moments of editorializing -e.g. monster vs. narcissist – also seem dead on. My take on this is that he’s a BDSM fan who used his position to rush/pressure people into participating – often bypassing or negating consent in the process. Anyway – amidst the thousands of words written on this, I think this is a standout.
Why the gender neutral word “people” in the sentence, (Ghomeshi) “..used his position to rush/pressure PEOPLE into participating….” in BDSM, of which he was a “fan”? This mindset of negation and subtle minimisation is part of the problem. It was WOMEN and the allegations are of assault. It was not BDSM. Not at work and not on the dates in question. The alleged acts of VIOLENCE (punching and choking) were done “to” NOT “with” these WOMEN. The one male to come forward alleges he was non violently fondled in an elevator without his consent. When Mr Ghomeshi was allegedly violently rebuffed, he (Ghomeshi) took offence and didn’t view it as BDSM play. Strange that.
Because women are people?
“The ‘people’ killed in the trenches in WWI”
“The ‘people’ who play professional rugby league”
“The ‘people’ who go into early labour.”
“The ‘people’ who breastfeed.”
The ‘people’ who get get prostate cancer.
The ‘people’ who rape.
The ‘people’ who shop.
The ‘people’ who suffer.
The ‘people’ who grieve.
The ‘people’ who enjoy a drink.
The ‘people’ who enjoy swimming.
Thanks for your flippant, uncritical, and I suspect disengenuous response.
I still have no idea what point you’re trying to make.
Really? Why go out of your way to use a gender neutral word, when the gendered word is not only more accurate, but more appropriate to the context and flow of the sentence? Why give the impression that Ghomeshi was targeting “people”, (which is imprecise and non specific) when he was targeting women?
“People” is a weasel word, a catch all. You could say Hitler rounded up six million “people”, ’cause gee, Jews are people too. Or, Custer massacred “people”- ’cause Native Americans are people too. What about all the “people” who were enslaved in the South until 1865? Or, the “people” who won the right to vote through the suffrage movement.
And, it would be true- but strangely imprecise. A subtle way to negate oppression and “Otherness”.
How much of his participation in the ‘Festival Métropolis Bleu’ has come into the story so far?
There have been several “Eww” notes about his activities in visiting Montreal with very young women, but only that.