A broad cross-section of Canadian entertainment industry associations has agreed to a joint policy of zero tolerance on sexual harassment, discrimination, violence and bullying after a Thursday meeting in Toronto.
"The biggest issue for everyone was the fear of retaliation, accusers not wanting to come forward," said Theresa Tova of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the union which convened the private meeting. "We are an industry of self-employed contractors and there is no protection: you are considered a troublemaker," if you report harassment, Tova said Friday. She added that, while ACTRA has reporting mechanisms, people who have been harassed or assaulted often don't trust them. ACTRA has been leading the charge against harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal in the United States – since it is often its members, actors on film and television sets, who are the victims.
The wider group includes 16 guilds and professional associations representing producers, directors, writers, actors, agents, publicists and technicians working in both the screen industries and the theatre, as well as the Toronto International Film Festival and Women in View, an organization that charts the status of professional women in film and television.
These organizations compared their various codes of conduct and committed to enact an industry-wide version that would clearly define appropriate and inappropriate behaviour as well as enforcement and consequences. The two other steps they agreed to included more effective reporting mechanisms that would alleviate fears of retribution, and launching an education and training program to raise awareness of the problem in the industry. Three working groups have been established to address these issues and have been directed to report back as soon as possible.
"There's a sense of urgency," Tova said, pointing to intense interest from both the media and politicians. As it began work, the group received a message of encouragement from three federal ministers: Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, Minister of Employment Patty Hajdu and Minister for the Status of Women Maryam Monsef.
The meeting also identified the overwhelmingly male leadership in the creative industries as part of a culture that permits sexual harassment.
"We all agreed … gender equality and diversity would help," Tova said. "We need more diversity so we don't just have older white men doing what they want to do."