As the old story goes, the shoemaker’s son is poorly shod. And human rights at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal seem to be in short supply.
As veteran journo Kathryn May explains:
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 obvious parallel is drawn:
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.
In this case the trouble appears to have begun with Stephen Harper’s appointment of Shirish Chotalia in 2009. Harassment and bullying of staff commenced, to the point that three different federal public service unions have been working together to get an outside audit of the CHRT, without success.
Chotalia apparently agreed to the audit, but wanted to set the terms of reference. As John Edmunds, president of the PSAC’s Union of Solicitor-General employees put it, “Since you are personally the subject of several harassment complaints and the expressions of concern by many other employees of CHRT, we are sure that our firm objection to your proposal will come as no major surprise.”
From the Rights and Democracy sideshow to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and now apparently to the CHRT, we can see a pattern clearly emerging: incompetent, tyrannical managers and/or ideologues appointed to difficult and demanding positions by the Harper administration, and spectacularly flaming out.
Being a bully above one’s level of competence may not be a job requirement under the Harper regime—but it does seem to help. Until, that is, people start fighting back. Multiple lessons here, I think.