Ex-CBC staffer Kathryn Borel identifies herself in Ghomeshi allegations

Kathryn Borel
Kathryn Borel, seen in a past interview on Q, has gone public with allegations against Jian Ghomeshi. YouTube screengrab

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TORONTO – Another woman has publicly identified herself with allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio host who was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “overcome resistance-choking” last Wednesday.

The charges were laid after three women filed reports to Toronto Police, and several others shared anonymous accounts of harassment in the media.

Kathryn Borel identified herself Tuesday as the colleague first quoted in an Oct. 26 Toronto Star article whose yawn at a 2007 staff meeting resulted in Ghomeshi allegedly saying:

“I want to hate f— you, to wake you up.”

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Borel alleges there were “uninvited back massages,” and describes an incident in which Ghomeshi grabbed her waist from behind in front of a co-worker and “repeatedly thrust his crotch” into her.

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“There was emotional abuse, too: gaslighting and psychological games that undermined my intelligence, security and sense of self,” wrote Borel in a Guardian article on Tuesdsay.

READ MORE: Timeline of the Jian Ghomeshi sex assault scandal

Borel said she approached her union in 2010 without the intention of suing, getting him fired, or “even to have him reprimanded.”

“The union representative and my executive producer at Q, the radio show for which we worked, did nothing.” 

Borel said she didn’t report the harassment immediately because she feared for her job and future career, and worried that she’d brought the unwanted advances upon herself.

READ MORE: Why don’t victims or bystanders report sexual assault?

She said after meeting with Canadian Media Guild representative Timothy Neesam, she was given the options of starting a union arbitration or filing a formal grievance—neither of which she thought would end in her keeping her job.

“By the time my union rep offered to informally talk to the executive producer of the show, Arif Noorani, I felt like I was trapped in a feedback loop: I had cried in my boss’s office already, on more than one occasion, because of Ghomeshi’s behaviour towards me. A couple of days later, Noorani called me in for a meeting, and told me that Ghomeshi was the way he was, and that I had to figure out how to cope with that.”

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Radio host Jian Ghomeshi is shown in a handout photo.
Radio host Jian Ghomeshi is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CBC

Borel said she resigned from Q shortly after and moved to Los Angeles to build a new career.

“I was essentially forced to either leave the show or allow my boss to lay his hands on my body at his pleasure. But since then, no manager or executive who was complicit in creating or maintaining a workplace in which Ghomeshi was allowed to operate with impunity has lost his job, let alone apologized.”

Borel told Global News it never crossed her mind to go to police with her allegations.

“In 2010, after my experience of talking to my union rep–where I told him explicitly about Jian’s sexual improprieties towards me–then being redirected to my executive producer, who essentially told me the harassment was my problem to solve, it never even crossed my mind to go to the police,” she wrote in an email.

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“My complaints were downplayed then dismissed. Why would I think the police would have any more interest in my situation than my boss did?”

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Click here to read her full account in the Guardian, including Noorani’s apparent denial of her complaints and the memo sent by her former union that she says inaccurately implied she’d been lying.

CBC’s head of public affairs Chuck Thompson issused a statement in response to questions of how the CBC handled Borel’s situation.

“The issues raised by Kathryn Borel are subject to the third party review and in order to ensure Ms. [Janice] Rubin’s investigation is not compromised in any way, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further,” wrote Thompson. The public broadcaster’s news coverage said no response was received from Noorani when contacted Tuesday.

When asked what CBC could do to signal a systemic change, Borel said she’d like to hear from management.

“It would be very heartening to hear someone at the management level admit they made a mistake. And maybe, if they have the courage and energy, say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

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Following the publication of Borel’s article, the Canadian Media Guild—her former union—issued a lengthy statement that began with an apology for not being able to combat issues of sexual harassment and abuse more effectively.

President Carmel Smyth wrote that Borel’s experience was “unacceptable” and that it is now offering her assistance as needed; Smyth said the CMG’s processes in dealing with harassment are under review.

“We take our responsibility to make workplaces safe and secure seriously,” she wrote. “This issue is now a priority for us, and we are beginning talks with all of our employers about how we can make real and lasting improvements as we shift our culture towards one in which abuse and harassment do not take place.”
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