Blog Post #1305 – Culture of Harassment Cited

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (January 2016)

The Canadian Olympic Committee in Toronto (COC) has released the results of an independent workplace review conducted in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations directed at former Pres. Marcel Aubut. The summary report, dated January 4, 2016, was authorized by employment lawyer Christine Thomlinson, partner with Toronto law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP.

In a press release dated January 13, 2016 the COC announced that its board of directors had voted to implement all eight of the report’s recommendations. The anonymous employee whose complaint had sparked the Aubut scandal approved of the recommendations.

“Harassment of any kind is not acceptable. It is not welcome in our workplace or in our community,” current COC president Tricia Smith says in a statement about the report. “These actions have proven to be a catalyst for change.”

Smith also apologizes to all COC employees who have been victimized by Aubut’s behaviour. She adds that the COC will be holding harassers and enablers accountable.

Based on more than 100 confidential interviews with COC staff, Rubin Thomlinson’s investigation found that the majority of them had either experience or witnessed harassing behaviour during Aubut’s presidency and that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) had known about this behaviour, but it taken no action.

“There exists a perception amongst the COC staff that the Board and the SLT were aware… That harassment was occurring in their workplace and they were unable or unwilling to take steps to address it,” Thomlinson writes. “Many COC staff feel that the Board and the SLT failed in their obligation to provide a safe environment.”

The summary report offers the following general recommendations:

  • Improve COC’s harassment policy;
  • Familiarize staff with the policy;
  • Appoint an individual to oversee the implementation and administration of the policy;
  • Establish a record-keeping system on policy training;
  • Establish a system for anonymous employee complaints;
  • Revise the ethics commissioner’s terms of reference to create a means for workers to raise policy-related concerns;
  • Emphasize respect and well-being as core COC workplace values; and
  • Monitor the COC’s workplace culture and policy adherence through surveys and reviews.

My opinion

I was very pleased to find that the COC Board accepted all eight recommendations from the independent review on workplace harassment. It is very important to “get the ball rolling” as soon as possible.

I remember when harassment laws came into effect Ontario under sections 32.0.1 to 32.0.8. It was brand new territory and for both the Ministry of Labour as well as the many thousands of businesses and we seem to have muddled through. In 2007, and independent study found that workplace violence and harassment was one of the top 10 listed. It did not take long to enact change. I was surprised it took only three years to make its way to the green book.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including workplace ‘Violence’ and ‘Harassment’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal 

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

Leave a Comment