BRANDON, Man. – Manitoba’s New Democratic Party has suffered for years from a “toxic culture” of sexual harassment and bullying where victims have been afraid or unable to seek help, according to a review released at the party’s convention in Brandon.“The atmosphere was overly sexualized, sexist and misogynist, and there was often a different standard for women than there were for men,” Kemlin Nembhard, one of two commissioners who have been examining the issue, told some 200 delegates at the party’s annual convention Saturday.“The span of years that (people we talked to) have been or were involved with the party was really diverse, and yet the patterns in the work atmosphere, in the general culture and environment … were pretty consistent.”The Opposition party set up the commission earlier this year, after several women came forward with allegations they had been subjected to harassment and unwanted touching by former NDP cabinet minister Stan Struthers.One of them, Shannon Van Raes, alleged Struthers put his hand under her skirt and made sexual comments while she was a staffer. Another woman, Joelle Saltel-Allard said when she was a press secretary, Struthers put his hand on her knee and talked about sex acts he would enjoy.Struthers, who left politics in 2016, has rejected interview requests but issued a brief statement in which he apologized for any inappropriate behaviour.The commission’s report does not name any alleged victims or perpetrators, nor would the commissioners say how many people came forward, or how many alleged perpetrators there were. They would only say they had heard from former politicians, party workers at the legislature and others.Nembhard told the convention people told her they felt they had no choice but to put up with harassment and other inappropriate behaviour.“It was generally an atmosphere of fear and loyalty. Fear of certain senior staff members was noted … and then there was the atmosphere of loyalty at all costs (where) one must always remain loyal to the party to the exclusion of all else, regardless of what was happening.”The commission, which examined the party going back more than a decade, including the years when the NDP was in power, also found that:— There was a toxic atmosphere where inappropriate behaviour was enabled by key party members.— There was an “Old Boys club” where some people were excluded from decision-making.— There was pressure to take part in drinking and parties, and inappropriate sexual activity inside the legislative building.— Some women have left the party while others have decided not to enter political life.“If 50 per cent of the population are feeling isolated and can’t participate in the party, that really questions us as a democratic institution,” Nembhard said.The commission made several recommendations, including mandatory anti-harassment and human resources training for politicians and senior staff and a formal process to allow victims to come forward.NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he wanted to enact all the recommendations and the convention delegates voted to adopt them.“I’m apologizing both for the direct harm you experienced, but also for the environment that silenced your voices for too long,” Kinew told the crowd.Saltel-Allard said Saturday she was pleased with the report’s findings.“My goal with coming forward has always been to see change — to make sure no one else has to feel belittled, disempowered or harassed like I did, almost 8 years ago. And I can honestly say that my goal has been achieved!” she wrote on her Facebook page.“Thank you to the Manitoba NDP for finally listening to my story. I can attest that the report findings are accurate.”Kinew took over as party leader last September and has tried to show he has changed in terms of his personal treatment of women.He wrote misogynistic and homophobic lyrics as a rapper more than a decade ago, and later wrote misogynistic social media messages, including one where he asked whether fat women carried avian flu.Kinew also continues to face accusations from a former girlfriend that he assaulted her in 2003. The charge was stayed and later dropped, and Kinew has denied assaulting the woman. But in an interview with The Canadian Press last fall, she stood by her allegation that Kinew threw her across a living room.
WINNIPEG – A move to ban discrimination based on weight and size under Manitoba’s human rights code has moved a step closer to becoming law, although the Progressive Conservative government has not yet committed to passing it.Liberal legislature member Jon Gerrard has tried three times to get support for a private member’s bill that would add weight and size as grounds for human rights protection. He didn’t get any support for his previous two attempts, but the Tories have now voted in favour of sending Gerrard’s bill to a legislature committee for public hearings Wednesday night.“There’s no guarantee it will pass all the way, but we believe we’ve got some really good presenters at committee stage and we’re hopeful,” Gerrard said Tuesday.Justice Minister Cliff Cullen would not make any promises beyond listening to what people have to say.“We will reserve comment until we’ve had the opportunity to listen to Manitobans at committee,” Cullen said in a brief written statement.“We look forward to discussing ways to better ensure that all Manitobans are treated fairly and equitably.”Gerrard has long said overweight people need protection because many have been bullied, shamed, passed over for promotions or denied health-care services.The bill also proposes protection for people with dwarfism.Lindsey Mazur, a dietician and spokesperson for Manitobans Against Weight Stigma, said the proposed law is needed.“Certainly I have heard about promotions and jobs being denied based on size,” Mazur said. “This affects so many areas of society, all the way to our children and bullying.”Some people have been told they will not receive medical services unless they first lose weight, she added.Manitoba’s human rights code bans discrimination on several grounds including age, gender, religion, sexual orientation and disability.Across Canada, there have been human rights commission rulings in favour of obese persons, but they have been limited to people considered disabled because of their obesity.In 2010, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled a morbidly obese woman was discriminated against by her condominium association when she was denied a handicapped parking spot.Gerrard said people should not have to be obese to the point of being disabled before they can be protected from discrimination.
WINNIPEG — Celebrations for Manitoba’s 150th birthday next year were almost given the slogans “Revel The Heart” and “Love Your Manitoba, Explore Someone Else’s.”The two phrases were among three options that advertising firm McKim Communications Group presented last fall to a committee organizing the celebrations, say documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the province’s freedom of information law.The committee ended up picking “United in Celebration” as the official slogan and unveiled it at a ceremony earlier this year.“It’s a very robust process. You look at all three, you evaluate them,” Stuart Murray, co-chair of the committee, said in an interview.“When you look at ‘United in Celebration,’ we want all people — everyone that lives in the province of Manitoba — to celebrate the great province we have, and more importantly, to celebrate what a great future we can (have) working together.”McKim also developed the logo for the anniversary, Murray said — the outline of a heart bookended by two objects that look like crocuses, Manitoba’s official flower.It’s a stylized logo, open to interpretation, he said.“It could be two hands reaching up, it could be two crocuses, it could be two fish.”The logo is also versatile, Murray said, because the outlines allow different photographs to be inserted, depending on the specific message of each ad. Some ads will focus on historical events and places, while others will highlight cultural aspects or nature.Year-long celebratory events are being planned across the province to mark the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation.Manitoba was the fifth province to join, and the only one to do so under Indigenous leadership, Murray said, pointing to the work of Louis Riel.The provincial budget for the celebrations has not been finalized, but Premier Brian Pallister committed in March to $5 million as a starting amount.One of the major events is expected to mark the 100th anniversary of the Manitoba legislature, which opened its doors on July 15, 1920.The full list of events will be revealed in the fall, after the provincial and federal elections slated for September and October.Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press