The founder of a campaign aimed at getting answers from candidates on their commitment to addressing assault and harassment in the workplace says she has yet to hear back from any of the major parties’ leaders.
“I’m still waiting to hear their response, which is perhaps not surprising, but it is disappointing because I have been hearing the voices of women and survivors all across the country for some time now saying that we need meaningful change,” ZeroNow Campaign founder Kathleen Finlay told CTV News Channel in an interview on Saturday.
Launched in 2005, the ZeroNow Campaign is a survivor-based advocacy group that aims to support women who have faced harassment or assault in the workplace.
The campaign sent 10 questions to federal leaders asking them for their position on several issues including the possibility of creating a new federal commissioner post to investigate misconduct allegations and the prohibition of non-disclosure agreements.
As of Saturday afternoon, Finlay said the campaign has not received responses from any of the party leaders.
“Women know the difference between platitudes that are just going to perpetuate the status quo and initiatives that are designed to drive meaningful change,” said Finlay. “And sadly, we don’t seem to get much more than empty statements from our leaders on these issues.”
Sexual misconduct has come up during the federal election campaign as Western University in London, Ont., has become embroiled in an investigation into allegations of up to 30 drug-related sexual assaults at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during orientation week.
“It’s the same thing over and over again,” Finlay told CTV News Channel. “The issue with Western is horrific and to some people it’s probably very shocking, but it’s one of the latest in a long string of incidents at colleges and universities in Canada and the United States, and sadly it’s just a terrible example of institutional betrayal where the institution has failed to protest the young students — men and women — who it should be protecting from those kinds of incidents.”
Finlay also pointed to allegations of misconduct levied against political candidates as another example of federal leaders falling short when it comes to addressing sexual harassment and assault.
Earlier on Saturday, the Liberal party severed ties with Kevin Vuong, a candidate for the Spadina-Fort York riding in Toronto, after it learned Friday that Vuong had previously faced a sexual assault charge that was later dropped. Vuong denied the allegations against him in a statement Friday.
“These things come up, they grab the headlines for a while, and then everybody goes back on their merry way and nothing meaningful happens to address them,” Finlay said. “And that’s why they happen over and over again.”
Finlay said ZeroNow is advocating for the creation of a commissioner post to investigate allegations of misconduct in the federal workforce, and for the end of the use of non-disclosure agreements, which she said gag survivors who want to tell their story.
The ZeroNow Campaign website will share the results of the 10-question survey sent to federal leaders if it receives any responses before the federal election on Sept. 20.