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Canada Union warns CBC employees about internal Ghomeshi investigation

Brian B. Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

The union representing CBC employees is warning members about co-operating with an internal investigation of the Jian Ghomeshi affair, saying the information they provide could be used against them.

In a memo issued to members on Monday, the Canadian Media Guild says that, while it is "strongly supportive of an independent investigation into this issue," it is concerned employees who choose to participate in the workplace probe led by lawyer Janice Rubin might not be able to protect themselves.

"CBC has told us that Ms. Rubin will be recording her interviews. However, participants will not be allowed to make their own recordings, obtain a copy of Ms. Rubin's recordings or a transcript of the interview until the investigation is completed and findings made," says the memo, written by Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the guild's CBC branch.

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Mr. Laurin added that the union has been "informed Ms. Rubin's recordings may however be provided to CBC management and relied on by management to discipline the employee being interviewed. CMG has been unable to receive assurances against self-incrimination, and cautions that the contents of these interviews could be used as the basis for disciplining the person making the statements.

"While we believe firmly that evidence of wrongdoing should be investigated and necessary measures taken as required, no employee should be put in a position of exposing themselves to discipline based on information they themselves have provided."

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson disputed part of the memo, noting "participants will have the option to review a transcript of their interview after it has taken place to confirm that it accurately reflects the interview and their own statements," before it becomes part of Ms. Rubin's official record.

However, Mr. Thompson also confirmed that employees will not be protected from self-incrimination, as they normally would if participating voluntarily in an in-house probe, because Ms. Rubin's investigation is taking place outside the purview of the union's collective bargaining agreement.

In a Nov. 4 memo, Heather Conway, CBC's executive vice-president of English services, told employees: "I strongly encourage you to come forward in order to ensure the investigation is as thorough as it must be. Please be assured, these conversations will be handled sensitively and any individual who comes forward will be treated with care and respect."

But the Rubin investigation, which is looking into how Mr. Ghomeshi's alleged workplace harassment and abuse went undetected, has been fraught from the beginning, in part because of concerns that CBC management will be exempted. While the broadcaster has disputed that, Mr. Thompson acknowledged on Monday that participation among both staff and management is voluntary. "No one is obligated to speak to her," he said.

During an interview last Friday on the Toronto radio show Metro Morning, Ms. Conway cautioned people to be patient. "I understand that hunger, I do, for wanting to hold people to account," she said. "I think a terrible result of that could be that we cripple the real investigation."

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