A woman who used to work with Jian Ghomeshi at CBC Radio’s Q program has told CBC News that she was sexually harassed and groped by the host in 2007 during her time with the popular show.
Two other women — one former and one current employee — have also made allegations to CBC News about sexually aggressive and abusive behaviour by Ghomeshi, who was fired Oct. 26.
One said she was afraid to speak out, while the other said she raised her concerns with a supervisor, but that the conversation went nowhere.
That supervisor has since retired and CBC News has been unable to make contact. No complaints were laid.
These latest allegations come as Toronto police investigate complaints against Ghomeshi, and CBC has hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations of harassment and violence.
When Ghomeshi was fired, the CBC said "information came to our attention recently that in CBC's judgment precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian."
Ghomeshi has not been charged with any criminal offence, and has said all acts involving rough sex with women were consensual. He denies all the allegations against him and has said he won't respond in the media.
Ghomeshi has not responded to CBC requests for comment on his accusers' allegations.
The former Q staffer, who asked to remain anonymous, alleges Ghomeshi made lewd comments on two occasions on a single day in 2007.
After he noticed her yawning during a morning meeting, she alleges, Ghomeshi leaned in and said he wanted to “hate f--k” her to wake her up, she says. That same day, as they walked to the studio, he said he wanted to “grudge f--k” her, the woman says.
On another occasion, he groped her, the woman alleges.
She said she was initially scared to speak out, and confided only to close friends and colleagues. By 2010, she says she’d had enough and spoke to a colleague knowledgeable with union affairs, but didn’t file a formal complaint.
CBC News has obtained recent email correspondence dating between July and October of this year between her and that union member, Timothy Neesam.
In the exchange, Neesam says he remembers their conversation
In an email dated Oct. 28, Neesam wrote he remembers her telling him "about Jian behaving inappropriately (verbally/in attitude) toward you.”
But the next day, he added, "I have no recollection of you telling me about physical touching" and that is "not information that I would have excluded from any of my conversations with anyone."
In the same email, he says the information "was passed verbatim to the CBC Radio manager, and also verbatim to the Q executive producer. Senior management is now aware of those conversations."
The details of those conversations are unclear, but in an email to CBC News, Q executive producer Arif Noorani said: "I've asked to take a few days off while the CBC investigates the matter of the union complaint and will respect the process as it unfolds."... "At no point was an allegation of sexual harassment brought to my attention."
The woman who complained in 2010 says she met with Noorani and he suggested they find a way to make the workplace less toxic. She says she feels Noorani’s hands were tied.
"I think we all realized we were fairly powerless in the face of Jian’s primacy over the show, our EP included," she says. Noorani won’t confirm if that meeting took place.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said Monday it was Noorani's decision to take some time while the CBC examines the allegations about Ghomeshi. He said the entire Q staff was offered the week off, but it was up to them whether they wanted to take it.
The CBC has said it is looking for more clarity around the woman's allegations in 2010.
CBC has also made repeated requests to both the union and management for more information, including about the identity of the unnamed manager.
In other news, which emerged Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported on new allegations against Ghomeshi. Jim Hounslow says that more than 20 years ago, when he was a student at York University in Toronto and Ghomeshi was the student federation president, Ghomeshi grabbed his genitals as they were waiting for the elevator.
York University says it has no record of complaints against Ghomeshi.
"Under our file retention schedule, given that this was more than 25 years ago, it is highly unlikely any record exists," university chief spokesperson Joanne Rider said in an email to CBC. "Notwithstanding, we have conducted an extensive internal search and to date have found no record of complaints nor formal meetings relating to Jian Ghomeshi."
Hounslow now works at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
The National Post and the Toronto Star also reported that Ghomeshi has hired prominent criminal lawyer Marie Henein, who successfully defended former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant against charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard.
Lawyer Janice Rubin to lead investigation
CBC announced Tuesday that employment lawyer Janice Rubin will lead the independent investigation into the allegations against Ghomeshi.
Heather Conway, CBC's executive vice-president of English Services, said in an emailed statement to staff that Rubin is a "leading authority on workplace harassment" with a certificate in workplace investigation.
In her statement, Conway said current and former CBC employees who worked on shows where Ghomeshi worked as host — Play and Q — and who have "complaints, concerns or experiences they wish to share regarding harassment, discrimination, violence or other inappropriate workplace conduct during their work on these programs," are invited to contact Rubin. Her statement included an email address for employees to contact Rubin and said a secure telephone number would follow.
Conway's statement said CBC will "fully co-operate with Ms. Rubin in completing her investigation."
After Rubin wraps up her investigation, she will deliver a final report to CBC-Radio Canada management that will:
- Summarize the complaints and concerns shared by employees, whose confidentiality will be maintained.
- Report any findings with respect to each specific complaint she is asked to investigate.
- Include her recommendations about steps CBC/Radio-Canada should take to resolve the complaints.
In a separate report, Rubin will also recommend what steps CBC can take to prevent "similar issues from arising in our organization in the future" including any changes to policy related to "harassment, discrimination, respect in the workplace and workplace violence and the investigation of these issues."
Conway also encouraged any employees with concerns and complaints to come forward to ensure Rubin's report is as thorough as possible.
"Please be assured, these conversations will be handled sensitively and any individual who comes forward will be treated with care and respect," her statement said.
CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in an interview Tuesday with Radio-Canada that the recommendations of the independent investigation "will be delivered to me, to Canadians and to the board of directors.
"If the recommendations that come change the way we do things, or if they validate the way we do things, they will be very, very public."
Police investigating Ghomeshi
Several women have now come forward in the media to allege that they were physically attacked by the former radio host. One New Brunswick woman told CBC News that Ghomeshi choked and beat her with her belt, while another says he took her by the throat, pressed her against a wall and choked her. Still others have told the Star and the Huffington Post about their allegations of violence by the former host.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said Tuesday he was "gratified" by remarks he heard on CBC Monday from someone who had come forward to talk with his department's sex crimes unit and who had found their treatment "was both respectful and caring."
He added: "I will tell you that I have been somewhat surprised by the number of men who have written to us or come forward to suggest that we should force people to come forward.… Quite frankly, that attitude is shocking to me in the 21st century."
It is up to victims themselves to decide whether they want to come forward, he said. "As they go forward in the criminal justice system or not, it is their choice."
He refused to say whether more women had presented complaints to police about Ghomeshi. Any further information will come from the sex crimes unit itself, he said.
Heather Conway's full statement
I hope you got to take a moment to relax over the weekend following what was a difficult week for all of us.
As I said in my note to you on Friday, we are taking the important and necessary extra step to engage an independent investigator, and I want to share with you the details of how it will unfold.
Janice Rubin B.A., LL.B., and members of her team, have been selected to conduct this investigation, starting immediately. Ms. Rubin is an employment lawyer and the managing partner of Rubin Thomlinson LLP, a Toronto employment law firm. She is a leading authority on workplace harassment and has a certificate in workplace investigation. She is an experienced workplace investigator having conducted investigations into allegations of harassment, bullying and poisoned work environment and other employee misconduct.
Current and former CBC/Radio-Canada employees who worked on Q or Play during the period in which Jian Ghomeshi was host, and who have complaints, concerns or experiences they wish to share regarding harassment, discrimination, violence or other inappropriate workplace conduct during their work on these programs, are invited to contact Ms. Rubin at: email@example.com. A secure telephone number will follow shortly.
Some of you may only wish to discuss your concerns or experiences with Ms. Rubin without any further action being taken. However, if you have a specific complaint that you wish to have investigated, Ms. Rubin will do so in accordance with applicable CBC/Radio-Canada policies. CBC/Radio-Canada will fully co-operate with Ms. Rubin in completing her investigation.
Following the completion of Ms. Rubin’s investigation, she will deliver a final report to CBC/Radio-Canada Senior Management which sets out:
- A summary of the complaints, concerns and experiences shared (confidentiality will be maintained).Findings with respect to each specific complaint she is asked to investigate.
- Her recommendations as to any steps CBC/Radio-Canada should take to resolve the complaints.
- Ms. Rubin will also deliver a separate report setting out her recommendations as to what steps CBC/Radio-Canada can take to prevent similar issues from arising in our organization in the future, including any recommended changes to CBC/Radio-Canada’s policies and procedures related to harassment, discrimination, respect in the workplace and workplace violence and the investigation of these issues.
If you have any information you wish to share, I strongly encourage you to come forward in order to ensure the investigation is as thorough as it must be. Please be assured, these conversations will be handled sensitively and any individual who comes forward will be treated with care and respect.
We are committed to ensuring a workplace that is free from all forms of violence and harassment. While the independent investigation unfolds, we ask that if you have any other concerns or information about harassment in the workplace to please reach out to human resources. If you need support, you can also contact our confidential Employee Assistance Program. If you need to talk to someone, reach out.
Thank you again for your ongoing dedication and professionalism. We will continue to update you as often as necessary.
CBC English Services