In Bullying Around the World, Harassment

Sexual Harassment in Canada

Sexual harassment runs rampant all over the world and Canada is no exception. According to sexual harassment is defined as “Persistent and unwanted sexual advances (ranging from invasion of personal space to inappropriate remarks or touching to sexual assault), typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantageous to the victim.” This definition pinpoints the main source of the problem throughout Canada. It is important to define sexual harassment clearly so one knows when they are experiencing it and when they are not.

Sexual Harassment In The Media

In October of 2014 Canadian radio personality Jian Ghomeshi was fired from his broadcasting job after he was accused of injuring a woman he was having sexual relations with. This incident put the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the limelight when it came under fire for possibly ignoring complaints about sexual harassment made against Ghomeshi. The Canadian broadcaster told the media after this incident that he had never had sexual intercourse that wasn’t consensual.

The very next month the spotlight moved away from Ghomeshi and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party Leader. Trudeau had been participating in the parliamentary caucus but was suspended after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.

These were not the only groups to come under fire for sexual harassment. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had a class-action lawsuit taken against them when over 300 female employees, past and current, accused the department of systematic sexual harassment. After assault allegations were filed against the Canadian armed forces a supreme court judge was asked to come out of retirement in order to investigate the case.

Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

According to it is not unusual for a woman to give up her job with a company where she has experienced or is experiencing sexual harassment and get a job at another company instead.

Though the most common occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace takes place between women and their male bosses there are also other occurrences of it between coworkers. It is not unheard of for men to sexually harass their female boss or supervisor. It is also not unheard of for a man to sexually harass another man in the workplace or a woman to sexually harass another woman in the workplace.

Workplace harassment reported by women in Canada is initiated by a co-worker 55% of the time. Only 39% of managers and supervisors are found to have initiated sexual harassment in the workplace. Women in the Canadian workforce are sexually harassed by a customer or client 13% of the time.

Ages Of Sexual Harassment Victims

Statistics show that among Canadian women the age group most likely to be a target for sexual harassment is between 18 and 24. Over the course of an average year 10% of women in this age group have been sexually harassed at work. The other group of women that is targeted most often is single women between the ages of 25 and 45, with the same average harassment rate of 10%. Married women, on average, experience less sexual harassment than their single counterparts.

Canadian Laws To Protect Workers From Sexual Harassment

The Canadian Human Acts Right, along with the Canada Labour Code offers protection for those who have been sexually harassed in the workplace. The Canada Criminal Code protects those who are sexually or physically assaulted at work. Sexual assault is also considered to be a criminal act.

Sexual Harassment Ontario

The Ontario Human Rights Code holds employers responsible for preventing and stopping sexual harassment in the workplace. Under the terms of this code sexual harassment encompasses a victim being touched in sexually inappropriate ways. Any complaints made about sexual harassment are sent to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to be dealt with. A worker that has been sexually harassed has every right to file an application with the tribunal without having to fear being penalized at their place of work or fired from their job.

Prominent Figures Who Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

At 28 years old, Sheila Cops, who has served as a deputy prime minister for Canada, was sexually assaulted at the hands of another parliamentarian while exiting an elevator in a hotel. She fought back against her assailant after he pinned her to a wall while he fondled her and tried to get a kiss on the lips, and successfully prevented him from assaulting her again. This incident took place when both the victim and the assailant were on a government sponsored trip to study the subject of violence being perpetuated against women.

When this incident took place the parliament did not have a process in place for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. As a result, Ms. Cops did not report the incident because she was afraid to talk about it. At the time, she was the only female member of parliament.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted a poll that determined of all female employees in the workplace, 43% had been sexually harassed and 76% of them have been victims of it multiple times. The same poll revealed that for every five victims of workplace sexual harassment only one reported it to their employer. Most of those who participated in the poll overwhelmingly stated that they preferred taking these matters into their own hands. Statistics show that of the victims that do report an incident, 60% of the time they feel like their boss will ignore their complaints and refuse to take action against the guilty party. It was also reported that 13% of Canadian workers did not report sexual harassment for fear they would lose their job over it. Angus Reid Institute has reported that from 2012 to 2014 close to two million residents of Canada have experienced sexual harassment at work. In addition, 12% of men responded to the poll saying they were victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment In The Military

Sexual harassment is not limited to the workplace as it is also happening in the Canadian military. Maclean’s Magazine published the results of an investigation that determined five military members are sexually assaulted each day. For every 10 cases of sexual assault in the military only one is reported, on average. The investigation also revealed that most of the people who did report sexual assault faced nothing more than reprisal. Upon the results of this investigation being published the Canadian military immediately started reviewing incidents of sexual misconduct.

A Statistics Canada survey released in 2013 revealed that of all the women in the military 15% of them have experienced sexual assault or unwanted sexual physical contact. The cadet program of the Canadian Forces has seen several hundred sexual assault cases on their hands. Files obtained from the program have revealed that the men in charge of it have unsavory motives. Canada’s Department of National Defense has also faced criticism for not taking steps to deal with sexual harassment among cadets. The members of the cadet program range in age from 12 to 18. Canadian Forces personnel are said to be part of the problem. As far back as 2000 to 2001 there were 312 cases that needed to be investigated as well as 10 sexual harassment cases. In one of these 10 cases a cadet was accused of sexually assaulted a fellow cadet. After the case was investigated the offending party was returned to their home base as punishment. From 2005 to 2006 36 cases of sexual assault were identified. 2011 reports showed that there were 18 different cases of sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment In Canadian Universities

Lakehead University, in Ontario, has a policy in place to deal with sexual misconduct on campus. This policy was put into place after a student graduated from the university and spoke of the lack of support she received from the college after becoming a victim of rape.

In the spring of 2014 a student at the University of Alberta wrote a letter stating that she had been sexually harassed by three of  her professors and also had friends who had been sexually harassed on campus. In her letter she said that when she reported the harassment to  authorities her professors denied the allegations and her complaint was not taken seriously. In fact, her case was closed without any action being taken to resolve it.

A short time later a University of Alberta Political Science professor was investigated on a sexual harassment charge. The harassed student who wrote the letter talking about her sexual harassment experience stated that she didn’t have much faith that the university would take this case seriously either.

Project 97

Toronto radio station 98.1 kicked off a year long project called Project 97 to take a closer look at the problem of sexual violence throughout the country. A staggering 97% of all sexual harassment cases that take place in Canada are not even being recorded and recognized by the police departments. In 2011 only 1,680 reports of sexual harassment resulted in the harasser being convicted.  Overall 67% of Canadian residents know one or more women who have been the victims of sexual harassment. From December of 2014 to December of 2015 Rogers Media will be using its various outlets to take a further look at the issue of sexual harassment towards both women and men.


Sexual harassment continues to be a growing problem throughout Canada. Residents are beginning to demand action be taken to stop sexual harassment in the workplace and other environments. This long time problem is often recognized by adult oriented TV shows, such as Comedy Central’s South Park. In fact, one episode from many years ago introduced a character called sexual harassment panda. The character was meant to teach the show’s main characters that sexual harassment is wrong. Some say that this just further makes a mockery of a subject many people do no take seriously, while others think it promotes the proper awareness of the issue.

In the workplace Ontario, as well as other parts of Canada sexual harassment will continue to be an issue until steps are taken to encourage victims to report cases and to encourage workplaces to deal with the problem rather than sweeping it under the rug. As an increasing number of young women enter the workforce authorities will eventually have no choice but to prosecute every reported case of sexual harassment throughout the country. Only then will the problem be dealt with in an effective and efficient manner.

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