Monday, January 25, 2016


 "When she went to human resources and managers within the government, including two cabinet ministers, Penton said, she felt like her concerns were dismissed, minimized and ignored."


With a shrug of his shoulder, my buddy's reaction to the Spaniard's Bay fiasco is simple statement of resigned acceptance.."Pete boy, we are not the only ones 20 years behind the times, this happens in rural areas across Canada all the time..besides your only getting half the story"

The half of the story I got is startling and unacceptable!  No one should have to tolerate misogynic behavior in the workplace - volunteer or paid. Half the story or not, the ignorant explanation that playing a short graphic porno clip of a women excreting to put out a fire is so far beyond the pale as to leave me scratching my head as to how this could ever have been considered acceptable.  Learning that this video clip may have been played for other fire departments only infuriates me more. Did not a sole who has seen this in a training session not think, just for a second, this does not belong here? Nope, not a single fire chief or firefighter complained. This conspiracy of silence, the lack of outrage, the desire not to rock the boat speaks volumes about the serious disconnect and a large part of our societies tolerance for the unacceptable.

Do not insult me , or the seriousness of this issue by qualifying this fiasco as a misunderstanding, a communication problem or that the complainant is a bitch. She is in fact a hero! A person who has volunteered. putting her life on the line protecting the people and property of a bunch of vocal "ingrates "despite enduring years of a poisonous work place.

Leadership and education is needed to rid people, young and old, male and female of these characteristics. Folks like you have to be prepared to take the chance of loosing a friend by pointing out behavior that is wrong and hateful.  Until we are prepared to no longer tolerate the intolerable, we are just as guilty.

How pervasive is the problem? It is huge, particularly in male dominated sectors. Not too long ago,  I witnessed first hand as an Executive Director of an organization had to endure a flurry of sexist, off-colour jokes spewed by one of her board members, in a social setting. It was awkward and unacceptable. Executive members shared glances but no one wanted to embarrass the man or set him right. It is a shame what we tolerate! This must end.

How is it that the first thing an employee with government, most not-for-profits and the private sector has to complete is safety and workplace safety courses, yet the provincial government, who is responsible for fire departments, does not ensure firefighters complete the same? 

Lets face it, there may be more and more women engaged in firefighting throughout the province, but it remains male dominated. That alone should have been a signal to those that draft workplace policies that training on harassment, a culture of safety, gender equity was needed.

If that was not enough, there was the Valarie Penton Story from last year. The female provincial government employee had to turn to the media because she was forced to walk away from her job in the Confederation Building after enduring two years of harassment. She was dismissed, minimized and ignored!

Than there was the story just six months ago regarding female volunteers who endured sexual harassment by their team leader. Like the Penton story the senior management of Habitat For Humanity Newfoundland and Labrador was not viewed as taking the complaints seriously.

In reaction to this story, Penelope Rowe, the chief executive officer of the Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, a group that promotes the role of volunteers, stated that organizations should have strict policies in place to keep volunteers safe. "They have every right to feel safe and they should have procedures in place which allow them to be safe." She said there should be definitive policies in place to keep volunteers safe.

So, despite two very public incidents of alleged harassment, in the public service and in the volunteer sector nothing was done to implement procedures that would lead to courses for volunteer organizations like volunteer fire halls ensuring a respectful and harassment free workplace. Seriously, where is the leadership?

The real issue is education and training to stamp out a pervasive misogynic culture that has been allowed to thrive.

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