Canadore College President and CEO George Burton speaks at an event in September 2019. (Kortney Kenney, MyWestNipissingNow.com staff)
An investigation into workplace issues at Canadore College will not be specifically commented on by the school’s Board of Governors, nor will the report be released to the public.
Members of the executive committee (and the board as a whole) have now had a chance to examine the third-party investigator’s report into concerns about a toxic culture at the school.
In a statement, Canadore says it has “no intention to release the report. In an investigation like this, it is normative that the report not be released publicly. The investigator cautioned the College about releasing the report due to its nature.”
Furthermore, Canadore “will also not be commenting on the specifics of the report. This is consistent with the recommendation of the investigator. Most of the individuals who came forward to the investigator chose to remain anonymous, which was permitted to ensure people felt comfortable in raising their concerns. Their anonymity was respected by the investigator and we don’t wish to do anything that would threaten that confidentiality.”
The following reasons were given by Canadore for keeping the report private:
- The purpose of the exercise was to gain an understanding of employees’ perceptions of any issues that were impacting the work environment. It was not a fact-finding exercise. The investigator did not investigate those issues or in any way seek to validate the information that was shared.
- It is essential to continue to respect the privacy of those who participated, as most of the individuals who came forward chose to remain anonymous.
- It is also important to respect the due process rights of both the complainants and other parties.
- To not deter or inhibit any potential remedial steps.
Canadore explained its reasons the third party investigation was deemed necessary. “Last year, a Human Rights Application was filed by a former employee regarding the workplace at Canadore. Some of the allegations in that application became public and created concerns related to the work environment at the College.”
Canadore President George Burton has said Canadore retained the third-party investigator, “In order to ensure that all members of the Canadore community had the opportunity to make their voices heard in a protected environment and to determine the extent of these issues and how we might best address them.”
“The College takes these issues very seriously and, as a result, engaged a third-party investigator to ensure that all members of the Canadore community had the opportunity to make their voices heard and to help the College determine how best to address any issues that arose. We thank those who chose to participate.”
Canadore has released what it claims is information from the report, although there is no way to verify it:
- Approximately 60 people participated in the process; 45 of those participants were current employees. There are approximately 700 active employees at the college.
- Canadore says there was absolutely no suggestion from any of the persons who came forward that there was a sexual predator threatening persons at Canadore, or that there was an individual on campus who posed a threat to the safety of any of our employees. There was no merit to these claims.
- Canadore says an intimate relationship between two employees, was raised as a concern by some of the persons who came forward. However, this relationship was entirely consensual in nature, and these individuals are now married and have been for many years. Accordingly, to the extent that a few individuals raised concerns about the propriety of this relationship, those allegations deal with historical events.
- Canadore says none of the participants indicated to the investigator that they wished to move forward with a formal complaint that could be investigated and acted upon.
Now that the investigation process is complete, it is “Canadore’s goal to continue to move forward and ensure that our College Community is a place where employees feel free to raise their concerns openly,” according to the statement.
“Despite the fact that none of the participants wished to pursue a formal complaint, we think it is important to remind our employees that there is an avenue available for participants to engage in a formal investigation of their issues if they wish that to occur. Those employees who participated and wish to identify themselves and wish to file formal complaints in accordance with our policies will be given the opportunity to do so.
“Canadore has policies in place that are intended to assist in establishing an environment of respect and collegiality; the Respectful College Community Policy and the Safe College Community Policy are examples. We remind the Canadore community that these policies identify for students and employees how to address any issues that arise.”
Meanwhile, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas stated in correspondence to Canadore board chair Bob Nicholls, “It’s time to get serious about healing Canadore’s workplace culture.”
Thomas said dozens upon dozens of workers, students, and community members offered testimony, including more than 50 OPSEU members.
“It was terrifying for them to speak out because there’s such a poisonous culture of intimidation and reprisal at Canadore. But they testified anyway because they love their work and they care deeply about the quality of education they offer the students.”
Thomas added OPSEU is “going to make sure that people are held accountable and that real change starts to happen at Canadore.”