Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, January 12, 2018 — The recent troubling allegations of sexual harassment at the Creative Writing Department at Concordia University speak to more systemic problems within the university, and raise the need for an external and independent investigation.

CRARR is currently assisting and representing a number of students, former students and former employees of Concordia who have been exposed to acts of discrimination, harassment and abuse based on race, gender, age and other grounds, in complaints filed with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. These cases involve:

❏ “Cathy”, a survivor of assault and gender/sexual harassment by her former boyfriend, another Concordia student. She is now unable to return to study due to the physical and psychological effects of violence;
❏ “Maria”, a Latin-American student who was sexually harassed and intimidated by a male student. She is now prevented from returning to study due to the negative effects of harassment on her grades;
❏ “Felicia”, a student-employee who was sexually harassed on the job at the university by a male co-worker and who was terminated when she complained to her manager. She is now not allowed to pursue her studies due to her low grades;
❏ “Mei Ling”, a Eurasian student who was an Executive of ASFA, one of the University's student associations, and who was exposed to racial and sexual slurs on-line and other marginalizing treatments by other Executives;
❏ “Mounir”, a former Middle-Eastern employee of KnowledgeOne, a Concordia affiliate for on-line learning, who experienced a toxic work climate, and who was fired after a few months;
❏ Alex, a former Black President of the Graduate Student Association, who was continuously exposed to harassment and insults in email communications, and other discriminatory practices by other GSA directors.

Five of these cases are all presently under investigation by the Human Rights Commission. They do not include cases in which CRARR was involved and that have been settled, such as the highly publicized case of Rose, a Muslim Concordia gym trainer who was subjected to sanctions after she stood up against what was seen as an anti-Muslim directive by her supervisor.

The common thread in all these cases, and other cases that will come to light in the coming weeks, is the University's systemic failure to provide adequate protection, support and accommodation, in a timely, comprehensive and effective manner, to students and employees who encountered and reported discrimination and harassment.

In past months, CRARR has found structural barriers at Concordia that expose female students in particular to further trauma and violation of their civil rights to equality, security, dignity and integrity. Some of these barriers are:

❏ Incoherent definitions of sexual harassment in different policies,
❏ A flawed student complaint adjudication process (the Student Tribunal), led by members and lawyers with unknown record on discrimination and operating with inadequate and ineffective procedures, such as the requirement that the victim of harassment sits in the same room as her harasser/aggressor, and the absence of follow-up to a decision even when student safety on campus is the overriding concern, and
❏ The rigid refusal of academic accommodation for victims and survivors who receive low grades due to the effects of harassment, and the imposition of penalties such as suspension of studies on these students.

These barriers are at the heart of the civil rights complaint filed by CRARR on behalf of “Cathy” with the Commission. However, in this case, the University refused mediation as a means to resolve the case and address the issues more rapidly.

An external and independent investigator from the Government of Quebec, that has introduced Bill 151 to combat campus sexual violence, to review the University's policies and actions on campus sexual violence, including the handling of complaints of discrimination and harassment, may be necessary in order to bring about effective and accountable change, and to ensure a safe, respectful and discrimination-free learning and working environment at the University.