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N.S. business association cancels #MeToo-themed event after online backlash

The Greater Burnside Business Association has cancelled a luncheon spurred by the #MeToo movement, after some called the event write-up “tone deaf” and “very unfortunate.”

The session, which was scheduled for Nov. 15, was set to feature guest speaker Shelley Alward MacLeod, a human resources specialist from HR On The Go Inc.

READ: #MeToo is limiting mentorship opportunities for women doctors, medical leaders say

The ad promoting the event called it an opportunity for staff and management to learn how to properly speak to their employees.

“With all of the media attention given to sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, workplaces need to become more sensitive to all forms of harassment, bullying and disrespectful behaviour,” read the ad, which was posted on the association’s website and Facebook page.

“This has created an environment where staff and management need to be educated on how to speak to their employees. During this luncheon presentation, Shelley Alward MacLeod of HR On The Go Inc. will talk about the HR issues in the workplace.”

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On Twitter, people were quick to point out that the write-up seemed to insinuate that women who had come forward with harassment claims within companies were creating trouble or a “hypersensitive” environment.

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Monday afternoon, the association announced on its Facebook page that the event had been cancelled.

“We have decided to cancel the session in light of the heartfelt comments and concerns we have heard and read. It was not our intention to minimize this topic, but rather the session was aimed at leaders and Shelley’s talk was going to be about getting them to take ownership and understand it IS their responsibility to have a safe workplace and to investigate EVERY situation whether they want to or not,” the post read.

In a statement to Global News, the association said its executive committee held a teleconference Monday to discuss how to address the social media comments about its monthly luncheon.

“The presentation for the event was meant to enlighten member business owners and managers on the importance of taking workplace harassment complaints seriously and to engage in dialogue about an important issue,” the statement read in part.

“However, in light of the social media comments, members of the GBBA executive and the Board felt the event had become something that it was not intended to be, and have therefore made the difficult decision to cancel the event for Thursday.”

In an email to Global News, Alward MacLeod said they plan to offer the session again, “but will have a different write-up.”

“We know the topic is very important and we all benefit from education; however, we want to ensure when we deliver this presentation it starts off on the right foot,” she wrote.

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