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Workplace sexual harassment education project gets $1.5M


A project raising awareness about workplace sexual harassment across the Northwest Territories has been receiving funding support from the federal government.

The federal Department of Justice is providing $1.56 million over five years to the Status of Women Council of the Northwest Territories for its Public Education & Information on Workplace Sexual Harassment project.

While the funding started over two years ago, it was only announced last Wednesday in Yellowknife.

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The council has been using this money to support their work educating workplaces on the nuances of sexual harassment, the legal obligations of an employer, rights of employees, and how to access relevant services.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace occurs far too frequently. People often do not know what it is nor what their rights, obligations, and duties are,” said Louise Elder, executive director of the council.

“This project is intended to equip employers and employees with the knowledge and tools to prevent and address sexual harassment, and to create safe workplaces.”

Through this project, sector-specific resource kits have been sent out to employers, such as the education and construction sectors.

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A Statistics Canada survey from 2018 found 31 percent of women and 16 percent of men across the territories reported experiencing some form of workplace sexual harassment in the year prior to the survey.

This behaviour includes “inappropriate sexual jokes, unwanted sexual attention, unwanted physical contact, insults, mistreatment, or being ignored based on gender and sexual orientation,” a press release accompanying the announcement explained.  

“So we know it’s happening, but there’s a combination of lack of awareness of what it actually is, and uncertainty about how to address it,” Elder told Cabin Radio. “That’s where it’s important to get the information out.”

Elder said dealing with workplace sexual harassment can be particularly difficult for people living in the smaller communities.

Challenges, she said, include both finding safe spaces away from the harassment and dealing with the repercussions of reporting the harassment.

“We can’t change the fact that we live in these small communities, where many of us are related through family, friends, or other networks, but we can try to equip people,” Elder said. “What we often hear is people say: ‘Can you just tell me how to cope with this.'”

The Status of Women Council works to advance the equality of women and all genders in the NWT through research, education, and community engagement.

This funding comes from the 2018 federal budget, which committed $50 million over five years to address workplace sexual harassment.

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