We can cut out workplace violence and harassment

By MPP Toby Barrett
While disturbing that Jian Ghomeshi is accused of abusive behaviour ranging from allegations of beating and choking without consent, to workplace sexual harassment, the accusations against the former CBC host has raised awareness of how this insidious behavior can be curbed.

Building on previous legislation, Ontario has now unveiled additional measures to curtail sexual assault and violence which includes a new law forcing colleges and universities to step up efforts. This $41-million, three-year initiative features an action plan, “It’s Never Okay”.

Locally, our Haldimand and Norfolk Women’s Services has been ahead of the game. For several years I have been attending the Neighbours, Friends and Families annual Workplace Recognition Event in Port Dover. Local workplaces are recognized for doing their part in identifying, reporting and providing support to employees who may be the victim of an abusive relationship.

This year, area hair salons were recognized for “Cut it Out: Salons Against Domestic Violence”. This, I thought, makes sense as women often have a trusting bond with their stylist and on the flipside, these stylists are not only trained in the art of hair but in the art of listening — the chatter around the chair is relentless and can range from the price of electricity, to domestic violence to healthy lunches.

For complex and varied reasons most abused women never call the authorities or go to a shelter, but will speak openly to people they trust. Cut it Out trains those in the industry to recognize the many forms abuse can take — physical, emotional/psychological, spiritual or sexual abuse — and what to do if abuse is suspected.

Statistically, women under 25, women with a disability, Aboriginal women and those living common-law are at higher risk. Someone who is abusive at home may be “invisible” as an abuser at work and can be an excellent worker, manager, professional and does not act violently in any way. But there can be signs – bullying others, blaming others, denying problems, calling their partner repeatedly throughout the day.

Over the past 20 years the silence on domestic abuse is breaking thanks to organizations like Haldimand and Norfolk Women’s Services and the various programs and events they host.

The Workplace Champion Recognition Event originally stemmed from Bill 168 – an act long overdue that my colleagues and I supported. The legislation requires employers to have policies and programs in place to deal with workplace violence, workplace harassment and domestic violence that may occur in the workplace.

As part of the hearings into Bill 168, the committee heard compelling testimony from Barbara Dupont who told the story of her daughter Lori. Lori Dupont was slain at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital in 2005, by her ex-boyfriend Marc Daniel, who worked at the hospital as an anesthetist. He later killed himself.

Today, hopefully with the implementation of Bill 168, accessible information on the internet and a greater awareness in general, horrific situations like Lori Dupont’s can be few and far between.

Abusive behavior will not go away alone, and that’s why there are resources within our community to help. If you know someone – an abuser or a victim – who needs help, call my office and we will point you in the right direction.