Ridout Barron


Firefighter accused of harassment, assault

Even here in Canada, where gender equality in the workplace is a priority, there are still certain workplaces that have proven hostile to women. Alberta residents no doubt agree that firefighting is one such field, where the work is still widely considered the province of men. Regardless of these presumptions, the reality is that workplace harassment of any type continues to be inappropriate and, in some cases, actionable under the law. 

This is illustrated in the case of a female firefighter in Toronto who has charged a colleague with sexual assault after what she describes as a decade of harassment in the field. The woman claims she maintained silence since 2006 and instead attempted to switch fire halls, which she did some three times over the following 10 years. Her coming forward launched a massive investigation into two dozen male firefighters, all of whom were under suspicion for behaviour ranging from harassment and bullying to outright abuse. 

The woman has since left the field of firefighting despite being offered a position with the city's fire prevention network. The nine-month investigation, combined with 10 years of silence, proved too much for her to handle. This is precisely why issues of harassment must be taken seriously by law enforcement and the legal world at large. 

Here in Alberta, similar cases of harassment are reported -- or not reported -- all the time. For individuals facing workplace harassment, a great deal of support and resources are in place to help facilitate change. It is hoped that in calling out inappropriate behaviour of this type, the law can work in tandem with employers to make workplaces safe for all Canadians. 

Source: CBC News -- Toronto, "Toronto firefighter charged with sexual assault after allegations by female co-worker", Shanifa Nasser, Nov. 30, 2016

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