Thursday, January 8, 2015

Do we value women or don't we?

I haven't had much to say since the shootings on Parliament Hill back in October, but today's news that Jian Ghomeshi is facing three new charges, all from three new women who previously kept silent, is making me ask who we are as a society and why some people are allowed to get away with such reprehensible behaviour.

When the story broke last year, a reporter who had been following the story but hadn't gone anywhere tried to approach Ghomeshi to answer some simple yes or no questions. What he got instead was a cryptic answer that went along the lines of, "Toronto isn't that big of a city and I have a very long memory so be careful what you write." That line, you'd think, would demand immediate publication. Why the hold back? Was the Moxy Fruvous alumni really that powerful in show business that it got pushed back, until the showdown at 250 Front West?

A few weeks back, we got some insight into the two NDP MPs who claimed they were sexually harassed by two Liberal MPs and how there was an uproar when Justin Trudeau made the allegations public without naming the names of the alleged victims. Then we learn one of the women said she spent an evening with one of the accused, and something happened. All we know is, the woman says she didn't say yes but she didn't say no either. I don't think there is any ambiguity in the law on that one. The Criminal Code states only a yes is a yes, so we're talking sexual assault, not merely harassment.

They may be among the high profile cases, along with Bill Cosby, but generally this kind of thing gets ignored. And that's wrong. This isn't a progressive or a conservative issue, this is a matter of human rights. If a woman - or a man - is made to feel less human because of his or her sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, then it is discrimination, plain and simple.

The Old Boys Club (no offence to the graduates of Upper Canada College which is where we get the name) has to be smashed wide open. Men like me need to speak openly about it and say we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. If our daughters were treated like that, we'd scream bloody murder; so why is it okay when it happens to a colleague, we know about it, and say nothing? It's not. By being silent, we're being complicit.

But it's not enough for people to speak up. The process has to change so that a complaint is dealt with seriously by management and not done as a window dressing exercise. And where there is use of force, the police must be involved.

I may be stating the obvious, but there still seems to be a lack of common sense. It's a good thing men as well as women are finally having the conversation we so desperately need. But it has to be ongoing and it can't end while the criminal process is continuing. If people knew at the CBC and did nothing, they should be fired too - and that includes the anchor pool.

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