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Canada’s creative industries adopt new code of conduct on sexual harassment

The Canadian creative industries have adopted a new code of conduct to combat sexual harassment and workplace violence. Twenty-four groups including professional associations, unions, the Toronto International Film Festival and the CBC have banded together to enact a zero-tolerance policy with mechanisms for reporting abuses and resolving complaints.

The code, unveiled Thursday by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), requires all signatories to enact a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence. It also requires them to implement consequences for violations, designate people to receive complaints, provide a process for resolution and protect complainants from reprisals.

The code is the outcome of industry consultations in the wake of the #MeToo movement that revealed widespread sexual harassment in the entertainment industries. After stories in The New York Times and The New Yorker last fall alleged that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had preyed on multiple women throughout his career, numerous women and some men came forward with similar stories of abuse at the hands of powerful men in the North American entertainment industries.

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Goaded into action by accusations that in Canada young actresses in particular but also other creative workers were routinely harrassed, ACTRA and other Canadian industry groups banded together to hammer out responses. The resulting code is an attempt to craft an industry-wide solution in an environment characterized by precarious freelance work, irregular hours and numerous work-related social events.

Simultaneously, the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), which represents directors, assistant directors, production staffers and editors in the screen industries, came out with its own report on these issues and adopted a series of tough recommendations.

Interviewing more than 60 DGC members who volunteered to speak about the issues, report author Daina Green found they all had either experienced or witnessed bullying and sexual harassment including yelling, throwing things, shaming and sexual comments.

"Macho behaviour, including using foul and sexualized language and aggressive shows of ego, is commonplace and can lead to abusive behaviour, such as berating and demeaning subordinates, being accepted as normal," the report said.

The perpetrators, who included men and women, were producers, other DGC members and members of other unions. Most of the cases of actual sexual assault that members reported were more than five years old. Members repeatedly said that they feared they would lose out on future work if they complained about bad behaviour.

The report makes eight key recommendations that the DCG announced Thursday it is immediately adopting. These include: clear definitions of inappropriate behaviour; featuring information about harassment and bullying in the standard on-set safety talk given at the beginning of a shoot; mandatory training for managers; a country-wide complaints hotline, and investigating software that can hold a confidential record of complaints to identify repeat harassers.

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