WATCH: The fallout from the downfall of one of CBC’s biggest stars hit the corporation hard on Wednesday. An independent report found managers at the CBC knew about Jian Ghomeshi’s abusive behaviour at work, but did nothing to stop it. Mike Drolet reports.
TORONTO – CBC managers knew about Jian Ghomeshi’s “problematic behaviour” but did little to stop it as his stardom grew as the host of the radio program Q.
The CBC apologized to employees who “experienced inappropriate behaviour” in the wake of the report and executives Hubert Lecroix and Heather Conway called the report “troubling and disappointing” in a teleconference Thursday afternoon.
They also sent a letter to employees, signed by upper management at CBC, which stated they will be working with the Canadian Media Guild to review the recommendations in the report.
The report, written by Janice Rubin, a partner at Rubin Thomlinson LLP, admitted Ghomeshi was one of the network’s “stars” and was commissioned by the CBC in November after allegations he harassed people at work and complaints about him seemingly went nowhere. Ghomeshi, already on leave, was fired in October after the CBC said it saw “graphic evidence” he had caused physical injury to a woman.
‘Failed to take adequate steps’
The report failed to find evidence that management was aware of complaints regarding sexual harassment but did find evidence it knew, in varying detail, of his “problematic behaviour.”
WATCH: The CBC announced Thursday it is “severing ties” with two executives associated with the Jian Ghomeshi controversy. Christina Stevens reports.
Some of that so-called “problematic behaviour” included being chronically late, moody and temperamental, critical and mean towards colleagues, an incident where he yelled at a colleague, picked up another colleague, had a relationship with a junior non-permanent colleague, and shared too much personal information with coworkers.
The report goes on to say that some managers who had an inkling something was wrong failed to ask any questions. In other cases and despite “actual knowledge of concerns expressed by employees” nothing was done.
“We noted a tendency that as information was shared upwards… it became diluted,” the report read. “The evidence shows that while Mr. Ghomeshi’s star was allowed to rise, his problematic behaviour was left unchecked.”
The letter apologized, saying the behaviour has “no place at CBC/Radio-Canada.” And Conway said during the teleconference Thursday that CBC management is working to make changes.
“There is pretty much nothing that you can’t bring forward to me. I am not concerned about protecting inappropriate behaviour,” she said. “People make mistakes but surfacing those, feeling you can have candid conversations, is a deeply important part of shifting the culture.”
The report cautioned it would “be wrong” to say management did nothing, saying managers did talk to Ghomeshi about his chronic lateness but did not ask him to change.
While the Rubin report admitted there was no evidence CBC management knew about sexual harassment, the report also pointed out managers failed to investigate multiple complaints dating back to 2012 and an email in the summer of 2014 which “inferred” there may have been sexually inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
The report suggested CBC managers were influenced by knowledge they had about a journalist’s ongoing investigation of sexual harassment allegations. The report says managers, knowing Ghomeshi had threatened to sue the journalists, failed to investigate and were “too reliant” on Ghomeshi’s rendition of the events.
“They were too reliant on Mr. Ghomeshi’s rendition of events, and too quick to believe that he was telling the truth when he denied the allegation contained in the email.”
The former radio host was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of “overcome resistance – choking” in November. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His judicial pretrial is expected to continue on April 28.
The report goes on to say that if managers had questioned Q staff about the allegations in the email, they would have found “at least four witnesses” who had relevant information. The report goes on to list some of the allegations, but redacts some information.
“An allegation that Mr. Ghomeshi made the [redacted] comment to a former [redacted.]”“An allegation that Mr. Ghomeshi grabbed the same [redacted]’s behind.”“Mr. Ghomeshi’s flirtatious conduct with employees, guests and interns, and Mr. Ghomeshi’s unwelcome back massages.”
Rubin turned in her report on the CBC’s internal workings on April 13. The report was published Thursday morning with some parts redacted due to confidentiality agreements and contained several recommendations on how the CBC can change its workplace culture. One of those recommendations included the creation of a work and human rights ombudsperson who employees could use to raise concerns about the workplace.
Ghomeshi was one of 17 people who declined to be interviewed for the investigation.
The CBC also announced it is “severing ties” with two top executives, Chris Boyce, the former head of CBC Radio, and Todd Spencer, the head of human resources for English services. The CBC also announced it had handed out an additional 241 redundancy notices to unionized employees across the country on Thursday.
Live blog: Global News reporters Mike Drolet and Christina Stevens live tweeted the teleconference at 12:30 p.m. Follow along below.
Full text of the letter sent to CBC employees below:
This message has been sent to all CBC/Radio-Canada employees.
Le présent message a été envoyé à tous les employés de CBC/Radio-Canada.
We wanted to let you know that Todd Spencer (Executive Director, Human Resources and Industrial Relations) and Chris Boyce (Exec Director, Radio and Audio) are no longer with the corporation. Both of these individuals have a long history with the CBC and we thank them for their service.
In the interim, Cindy Witten will continue to lead CBC Radio as will Serena Thadani- Anthony and Ron Ouellette for Human Resources and Industrial Relations respectively.
Heather and Roula
Executive vice-president, CBC English Services
Vice-president, People and Culture
Read the entire report on Jian Ghomeshi below: