Anti-Harassment Policy

I.  Purpose 

Horizon Ottawa is committed to combating sexual violence and harassment to create an environment where all employees and volunteers are treated with respect and dignity. We recognize sexual violence as a barrier to civic engagement among those who experience it, particularly women and gender-diverse individuals who are disproportionately impacted by gender-based sexual violence. As a result, in line with our Bbasis of Uunity as outlined on the website, we aim to eliminate sexual violence to create safer and inclusive spaces that increase access to civic engagement and leadership. 

The Canadian Human Rights Act protects employees from harassment based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or pardoned conviction. This policy makes clear our commitment to addressing sexual violence and rape culture through fostering an environment of support for survivors and those who experience sexual violence. 

Horizon Ottawa takes an intersectional approach in identifying and addressing sexual violence. This means that we understand that it is possible for a person to experience sexual violence based on multiple grounds (for example, gender and race) and work to ensure that survivors with intersecting identities and experiences will receive adequate supports based on their needs. 

Sexual violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Horizon Ottawa. Individuals and groups who commit or attempt to commit acts of sexual violence will be held accountable and held subject to disciplinary action.  

 

II. Introduction 

Sexual violence is a serious problem that needs attention and intervention throughout society and within organizations. Acts of sexual violence have a significant impact on survivors and those who experience them, their friends and family members, and on those who work closely with them as supporters, advocates and educators. 

As a result of misogyny, cis-sexism,and  transphobia, gender-based sexual violence disproportionately  impacts women and gender-diverse individuals, especially those with multiple intersecting identities including but not limited to Black, Indigenous, and racialized women, transgender communities, and those living with disabilities. We recognize the importance of creating safe(r) spaces for men and masculine people who face sexual violence, particularly as they face a unique set of barriers rooted in patriarchy and traditional notions of masculiniuty that hinder their access to support and justice. 

This policy takes a transformative approach to: 

  • Outline commitments to raise awareness and educate about sexual violence;
  • Prevent sexual violence and reduce the risk of sexual violence incidents;
  • Promote a culture of consent where everyone has a responsibility to prevent sexual violence;
  • Respond to the needs of survivors in our community for support and empowerment; and
  • Outline the process for making reports or complaints to hold perpetrators accountable or take disciplinary action. 

III. Application

This policy applies to all members of the Horizon Ottawa community. This includes all employees of Horizon Ottawa meaning all full and part-time, casual, contract, permanent and temporary employees, facilitators paid by honorarium, as well as volunteers. 

This policy applies to all behaviours and activities connected to the work of Horizon Ottawa, including but not limited to in-person and digital events, meetings, online meetings, phone calls, online messages, letters and printed materials, training and on work trips.

This policy and its procedures may continue to apply even if a person's relationship with Horizon Ottawa changes or terminates. Procedures under this policy may be initiated or completed even if the respondent is no longer a Horizon Ottawa community member.

IV. Definitions

Complainant: When a report is made under this policy, the person filing the complaint is referred to as the complainant. 

Consent: The active, ongoing, informed and voluntary agreement to engage in physical contact or sexual activity. Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated (such as by drugs or alcohol), unconscious, or otherwise unable to understand and voluntarily given consent. 

Consent Culture: A culture in which the prevailing narrative is centered on mutual consent, especially in sex-centred and gendered activities and behaviours. It is a culture that does not force anyone into anything, respects bodily autonomy and is based on the belief that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs. Consent to any activity is ongoing, freely given, informed and enthusiastic. 

Disclosure: When someone chooses to inform a Horizon Ottawa community member about an incident where they were subjected to sexual violence.

Rape Culture: A culture within which sexual violence and rape are prevalent, normalized, and excused.  

Respondent: When a report or complaint is made under this policy, the person accused and whom the complaint is made against is referred to as the respondent.

Sexual Assault: Any kind of sexual contact without mutual consent. It can include unwanted kissing, fondling, oral or anal sex, intercourse, or other forms of penetration, or any other unwanted act of a sexual nature. 

Sexual Harassment: A course of unwanted remarks, behaviours, or communications of a sexually oriented nature and/or a course of unwanted remarks, actions that promote gender-based violence, or behaviours or communications based on gender – where the person responsible for the remarks, actions, behaviours or communications knows or ought reasonably to know that these are unwelcome. 

Sexual harassment may consist of unwanted attention of a sexually oriented nature such as personal questions about one’s sex life, persistent requests for a “date”, or unwelcome remarks about someone’s hair, body shape, etc. Sexual harassment may also consist of unwelcome remarks based on gender which are not of a sexual nature but which are demeaning such as derogatory gender based jokes or comments. 

Sexual Violence: Any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent. This includes, but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, sexual exploitation, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video of a community member without their consent, and cyber harassment or cyber stalking. 

Survivor: For the purposes of this policy, the term “survivor” is used to refer to an individual who has been subjected to sexual violence. They are referred to as a complainant when they file a report or complaint under this policy. People who have been subjected to sexual violence have the right to choose how they want to be referred to. There is a lot of debate over the use of victim or survivor; in the end it is up to the individual to choose how they want to be referred to. 

V. Policy 

Responsibilities and Expectations 

 

  • Sexual Violence and Identity

 

Horizon Ottawa consists of and interacts with a diverse community and every effort to address issues of sexual violence needs to be grounded in an understanding of intersectionality, and that each person’s experience of sexual violence will be affected by many factors including but not limited to sex, ancestry, race, ethnicity, language, ability, religion, faith, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. 

It must be acknowledged that acts of sexual violence can accompany or be rooted in multiple systems of oppression, including but not limited to sexism, racism, colonialism, ableism, homophobia, and/or transphobia. 

Due to the complexities of violence experienced by people with intersecting identities, Horizon Ottawa is committed to ensuring that its responses, prevention efforts and supports take an anti-oppressive and trauma-informed approach so that all community members can access these supports and services with care.

 

  • Awareness, Education and Training

 

Horizon Ottawa takes a transformative approach to fostering an environment that upholds respect, dignity and consent culture. 

We are committed to ongoing conversations that help community members understand, identify, and challenge rape culture to prevent sexual violence. Our committment to preventing sexual violence as strong as our committment to identifying and addressing it. 

We are committed to working with external partners to provide necessary resources and trainings that will empower community members to identify and take meaningful steps to prevent and address sexual violence, and to feel empowered to come forward upon experiencing sexual violence. 

 

  • Commitment to Support for People Affected by Sexual Violence

 

All Horizon Ottawa community members should expect to receive support if they are affected by sexual violence. We are committed to creating safe spaces for survivors where their wellness and safety is prioritized. 

Survivors need only to disclose their experience to seek support and will not be required or pressured to make a formal report or complaint.

Survivors have the right to determine what, when and how much they choose to disclose.

Survivors have the right to decide whether to report to police and/or take legal action.

 

  • Responsibilities:

 

Horizon Ottawa is responsible for:

  • providing all employees and volunteers with an environment free of sexual violence.

The Director of Horizon Ottawa* is responsible for:

  • ensuring that this policy is applied in a timely, consistent and confidential manner;
  • following through to complaints of sexual violence; and
  • determining what corrective action is appropriate where a complaint has been made.

*If the complaint is filed against the Director of Horizon Ottawa, or if the complainant feels that the Director will not sufficiently pursue the issue, the complaint can go to our delegated representative at the [name of organization]. It is the responsibility of the Director of Horizon Ottawa to provide all employees with the contact information of these individuals.  

The Director of Horizon Ottawa is responsible for:

  • the administration of this policy;
  • reviewing this policy annually, or as required; and 
  • making necessary adjustments to ensure that this policy meets the needs of the organization 

 

All employees and volunteers are responsible for:

  • fostering a work environment free of sexual violence and setting an example about appropriate workplace behaviour;
  • communicating the process for investigating and resolving sexual violence complaints made by employees; 
  • ensuring the safety of other staff and participants upon identifying sexual violence, whether or not a complaint has been made; 
  • taking appropriate action during a sexual violence investigation, including separating the parties to the complaint, when appropriate; and
  • ensuring sexual violence situations are dealt with in a sensitive and confidential manner. 

 

Employees and volunteers can expect: 

  • to be treated with respect in the workplace;
  • that complaints of  sexual violence will be dealt with in a timely, confidential and effective manner;
  • to have their rights to a fair process and to confidentiality respected during a sexual violence investigation; and
  • to be protected against retaliation for reporting sexual violence or cooperating with an investigation.

VI. Procedures for Addressing Reports or Complaints 

 

Community members need only disclose that they have experienced sexual violence to seek support. They also have options for reporting in response to an incident of sexual violence in an effort to hold the person accused accountable.

Please note that disclosing information about an experience of sexual violence does not constitute a formal report. 

Reporting to Horizon Ottawa - Reports of sexual violence can be made where they fall under the application and scope of this policy. A person may report to Horizon Ottawa even when they have reported to the police. 

Reporting to Police and other legal action - A person may choose to report sexual violence to the police or pursue other legal action. In cases where the sexual violence is perpetrated by a non-Horizon Ottawa community member the procedures in this policy may not apply. Horizon Ottawa may still provide support to the complainant, which could include restricting the accused person’s ability to access spaces facilitated by Horizon Ottawa.

 

Reporting

It is important that a person who reports an incident of sexual violence perpetrated by another Horizon Ottawa community member is heard and has access to appropriate support and resources. 

A community member may report an incident and file a complaint through any of the following methods:

  • Contact the Director of Horizon Ottawa

Or

  • Contact the representative from [third-party]

The complaint may be verbal or in writing. If the complaint is made verbally, the person receiving the complaint will make notes of the details provided by the community member. 

The survivor can provide the level of detail they are comfortable with. If possible, they will be encouraged to provide details such as what happened; when it happened; where it happened; how often and who else was present (if applicable).

Horizon Ottawa understands that the stigma and trauma of sexual violence often discourage survivors and those who experience it from coming forward. There are no time limitations on reporting an incident of sexual violence under this policy. 

Concerns About Immediate Safety:

In situations where immediate safety is of concern, the Director may need to take urgent steps to remove the respondent limit their access to spaces facilitated by Horizon Ottawa. In those cases, the Director will inform the respondent, in writing, that a report has been filed. The letter will also provide details of the allegations that have been made against them. 

Timelines of Resolution:

Every effort will be made to address reports as soon as possible. If deemed necessary, the respondent will be put on leave immediately while the situation is investigated.

Transparency:

  • Parties will be advised of their rights and responsibilities related to the process
  • Parties will know what to expect from the process
  • Parties will be kept informed about the process and outcome
  • Parties will receive regular updates on the progress of their case, estimated timeframes and any delays related to the resolution of their case (types and frequency of these updates will be determined through discussion with each complainant) 
  • Reasons will be provided for any decision made throughout the process

Trauma-Informed Approach

Horizon Ottawa takes a survivor-centred, trauma-informed, and intersectional approach in handling reports of sexual violence. This is a difficult process that may contribute to retraumatization and act as a barrier to achieving healing and/or closure for many survivors. 

Every effort will be made to expedite the process and support survivors without compromising appropriate procedural fairness for all parties.

Alternative Resolution

In appropriate circumstances and upon consent from the complainant, the Director of Horizon Ottawa will follow-up with the complainant and respondent to determine their willingness to participate in an alternative resolution process and offer options.

For it to be a meaningful process, participants must engage voluntarily and remain free from reprisal. At any stage during the process, the complainant may indicate they would like the complaint to move to an investigation and decision making process.

In appropriate circumstances, a complainant may request an alternate resolution process before an investigation is commenced or completed, or before the case is referred to a decision maker.  In appropriate circumstances, a respondent could also request an alternative resolution process by notifying the Director of Horizon Ottawa. 

Examples include, but are not limited to an impact statement/letter, a facilitated discussion between the complainant and the respondent, or education and training. 

Remedy and/or sanction options

Corrective action for the employee or volunteer found to have engaged in sexual violence may include:

  • Reprimand, including mandatory trainings and impact statement
  • Letter of behavioural expectations
  • Restrictions related to accessing spaces facilitated by Horizon Ottawa
  • Suspension from work for a set time with or without pay
  • Dismissal from employment

 

Both parties to the complaint will be advised, in writing, of the decision.

Other Redress

An employee who is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint process may file a discrimination complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Privacy and Confidentiality 

All parties to a complaint are expected to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all other parties involved and to limit the discussion of a complaint to those that need to know.

Notwithstanding the above, there are additional circumstances where Horizon Ottawa may be required to disclose information outside the organization in order to address safety concerns or to satisfy a legal reporting requirement. 

In such circumstances, the minimum amount of information needed to allow such concerns to be addressed, or meet such requirements, will be disclosed. These additional circumstances might include, for example: 

  • An individual is at risk of life-threatening self-harm; 
  • An individual is at risk of harming others;
  • There is risk to the safety of Horizon Ottawa organizers and participants and/or broader community;
  • Disclosure is required by law; for instance, under the Child and Family Services Act, reporting is legally required if an incident involves a child 16 or under; or, to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act or with human rights legislation; and/or
  • Evidence of the disclosed incident of sexual violence is available in the public realm (e.g. video shared publicly on social media).

Review

Horizon Ottawa will review this policy and procedures on an annual basis, or as required, and will make necessary adjustments to ensure that it meets the needs of all employees.

Enquiries

Enquiries about this policy and related procedures can be made to the appointed member of the Board. 

Date Last Updated: [January 30, 2021] 

Sources: 

  • Canadian Federation of Students - Consent Toolkit
  • Ryerson University Sexual Violence Policy
  • Seneca College Sexual Violence Policy
  • Platform, It’s Time Resources for Addressing Sexual Violence in Civic Spaces
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