More than half of the 25-member staff, including middle and senior level managers, have left, taken sick leave or retired over the past year. At least three have filed formal harassment complaints.
Unions representing workers confirmed they received numerous complaints of abuse of authority, intimidation and personal harassment. They say employees describe a work environment that has deteriorated “to the point of toxicity.”
The situation in the tribunal sounds strikingly similar to the poisoned workplace Auditor General Sheila Fraser found when she investigated the Public Sector Integrity Office under the leadership of retired commissioner Christiane Ouimet, said Milt Isaacs, president of the Association of Canadian Financial Officers.
The leaders of three federal unions have taken the unusual step of working together to get an independent investigation into the conflict and to find ways to resolve it.
“We’ve tried to be co-operative. We’re not looking for a head on a stick. We just want an outside agency to do an independent workplace assessment to see what we’re dealing with and make the changes needed,” said John Edmunds, president of the Union of Solicitor General Employees.
“There’s a toxic work environment. As an employer, you would think they would want to find solutions.”
In a statement, the tribunal’s executive director Frederick Gloade wouldn’t comment on specific complaints.
He acknowledged “workplace and human resource problems” some of which he said are “complex and go back some time.”
Where to begin? There’s bad news and good news, here. Let’s start with the good.
The good news coming out of this story is that the CHRT is a dysfunctional organization. This, combined with the deadlock surrounding Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, means that the CHRT is, theoretically at least, less and less able to do its job.
Great. Wonderful. It might not be legislative review, parliamentary censure, or outright dismantling, but the CHRT is, apparently, becoming less and less effectual with each passing day. For critics like me, that’s a nice ( belated ) Christmas present.
The bad news is also sort of good news – kinda – because this story means that the CHRT, the quasi-judicial body originally tasked with, mainly, workplace disputes, is rife with workplace disputes.
How awesome is that? Again, the critic in me enjoys the sheer schadenfreude and dysfunction. But another part of me kind of despairs: because dysfunctional as it is, and as inept as the CHRT is at solving its own workplace disputes, it is still charged with managing the workplace disputes of everyone else that the CHRC deems worthy of being dragged through quasi-judicial hell.
And that’s not good for anyone.
Last word goes to Andrew Phillips, who writes, in an email sent out via his mailing list:
My letter to the Ottawa Citizen concerning the CHRC Toxic environment
With the information as to the toxic environment at the CHRC I think this is a good issue for Elizabeth May and Green Party. The corrosive nature of all the Human Rights Commissions have on free speech presents a clear and present danger to free speech environment in Canada. While this toxicity is effecting the employees directly the overall effect on the nation of the CHRC’s very existence is a direct threat to us all. This would be a good time to see the environmental movements belief in the “precautionary principal” put to good use for a change.