On Wednesday, less than 24-hours after The Globe and Mail published an article about noted wine-maker Norman Hardie’s alleged sexual misconduct, Hardie took to Twitter to apologize.
“To all those who felt marginalized, demeaned or objectified while working for or alongside me, I am truly sorry,” the letter signed by Hardie reads.
The article, written by Ann Hui and Ivy Knight, alleges that at least three women say Hardie had “unwanted sexual contact with them” while 18 others described behaviour that “could be characterized as sexual harassment.”
Heather Bruce, a previous employee at the winery, is one of the three women quoted in the Globe and Mail story, which alleges that Hardie made inappropriate sexual advances toward Bruce on more than one occasion, and also physically grabbed her on two separate occasions.
Bruce, in a written statement given to CKWS, said she spoke out in the article because she felt morally compelled to do so.
“I made the decision to speak about my experience because I believe it was the right thing to do,” said Bruce. “I am with all the women whose lives have been impacted by the behaviour of Norm Hardie.”
In regards to the accusations of groping or sexual contact, Hardie expressively denies Bruce’s allegations. He also wrote in a statement published in The Globe and Mail article, “I do not physically grab people or touch them against their will,” although in a later letter sent to the Globe, the article says he did admit to trying to kiss a former employee on their first day of work.
In Hardie’s apology letter, he admits to some allegations and denies others, but does not specify which ones.
“Some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are,” Hardie wrote.
Hardie says that upon being contacted by the Globe about the allegations, his winery hired an independent advisor to conduct a review of the workplace, which was completed in April of this year.
“The independent review did not find any examples of sexual harassment in the workplace today,” said Hardie in the letter posted on Twitter.
The reviewer did suggest some changes to workplace policy, and Hardie said in the letter he had already begun to implement recommendations and will continue to do so, and that he was committed to ensuring a safe workplace.
Hardie, and the winery he founded in 2004 that holds his name, are known for putting the now 50 wineries in Prince Edward County on the international stage. Just last year, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall visited the winery due to its international acclaim.
WATCH: Royals visit Norman Hardie Winery
Richard Johnston, a former NDP MPP for Scarborough West, has been a winery owner in Prince Edward County for the last 15 years, and he credited Hardie with the expansion of the region’s wineries.
“He certainly has been very important to the county. He was the first one to get strong international recognition,” said Johnston, owner of Chadsey’s Cairn Winery and Vineyards.
Johnston said that he didn’t know Hardie past a professional relationship, but being a neighbouring winery only three kilometres away, he dealt with Hardie in the earlier days of establishing Prince Edward County as Canada wine-country.
“It’s very disappointing, very sad to hear, both in terms of the women involved — the difficulty that they have been experiencing. It’s really an unfortunate thing to happen,” said Johnston.
As for Bruce, she hopes that her story might empower others in similar situations to come forward.
“I would also like to add that I do not see myself as a victim or that speaking out was a courageous or brave act. I made a decision to do what I thought was right, and I hope that through that others feel empowered to do the same.”
CKWS made several attempts to reach Norman Hardie but received no response. CKWS was also not able to reach all the persons who reportedly made allegations in the Globe and Mail to independently confirm the claims made against him.