KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last evening’s founding meeting of Equity Watch was successful beyond her wildest expectations, Halifax writer and activist Judy Haiven tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.
Equity Watch is a new organization that aims to call out public and private employers who refuse to stamp out bullying, misogyny and systemic discrimination in their workplaces.
Reporters had been asked not to attend the meeting so that people would feel secure and be able to speak freely.
“I was very surprised, I expected maybe a handful of people, and what we got were 35 angry people ready for action. We had people from HRM, from the provincial government, from the Irving Shipyard, and more,” says Haiven. “Typically they all first encountered bullying and harassment in their workplace, and then ended up being fired or disciplined by their employer for speaking out about it.”
Almost all who attended were women, says Haiven. The organization will not turn anybody away, but its focus will be on women and members of marginalized groups that are frequently subjected to systemic discrimination.
“People who came were mostly delighted and relieved that they were getting some backing and that together we can move forward. Some of these people have already had a lot of media coverage. But on your own it is a very lonely and difficult road,” Haiven says.
A clear pattern emerged from the stories people shared at the meeting, Haiven observes.
“Many employers tend to blame the victims. The woman in question was deemed “not nice”, or unable to follow rules. And when women speak out because they want to get ahead, get a better job or anything along those lines, they run into these walls of systemic inequities.”
Rather than being supportive of these workers Human Resources departments are among the biggest culprits, Haiven adds.
Haiven gives a lot of credit to former firefighter Liane Tessier, who recently received an apology from the Halifax fire chief for blocking promotions and not shielding her from bullying by fellow workers and management types. Tessier is the co-founder of Equity Watch.
“Liane Tessier opened the floodgates. Not only did she have to fight an intransigent employer, she had to fight the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for many years, and take them to court to force them to take her case forward,”
Equity Watch believes the Human Rights Commission is more interested in settling cases than tackling injustices fundamentally. Monitoring the Commission is very much part of the group’s mandate, says Haiven.
Not just the Human Rights Commission, unions as well have at times abandoned these workers, Haiven adds.
A brief statement issued by Equity Watch summarizes the results of last evening’s meeting as follows:
“By the end of the evening what was clear was that we want change. We are putting HRM, the province and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on notice that we will be monitoring them on equity issues. These issues include bullying in the workplace, corporate human resource departments’ antiquated policies which include victim blaming, a weak and resistant Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, pay equity, opportunity for promotion, and safe workplaces. While we will look at individual cases, we know that we must fight on the basis of systemic discrimination.”
There will be a follow up meeting of Equity Watch in a few weeks.
For more information, contact Judy Haiven (902) 718-7445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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