'I was confused, I was enraged, I was disgusted': Canadian newcomer recalls workplace harassment
Canadian workplaces need to better prepare international workers and newcomers about Canada's sexual harassment policies, says Checkup caller Irene Mala from Thunder Bay, Ont.
Mala is a newcomer to Canada who was sexually harassed while working at a factory. She says she was disgusted by the situation, but didn't know who to turn to or what the rules were. Her limited English then made it hard to communicate what was happening.
Her fear is that without employers laying out the sexual harassment policies when a person is hired, newcomers simply won't know what to do in a crisis.
Irene Mala: As a newcomer to Canada, I found myself in a job in a busy factory, but in an isolated situation in a lab, with a man, who was my boss. And he was sexually offensive, verbally and physically harassing me. And I had horrible experiences that made me sick. I was confused, I was enraged, I was disgusted. That was a married man.
I had to quit and I didn't know where to turn. I did not know what to do with the situation. I couldn't speak English very well and I didn't know the system. And I'm thinking about all the newcomers to Canada, and refugees, that many of them have been violated. And then they find themselves in [a] predatory environment, they will not know. They do not know [where] to turn.
So, I was going to point out that it must not be too difficult for our government to implement a policy where the employer, when hiring someone, would be required to present — hopefully in written form — what the policies on sexual harassment at the workplace [are] and also what the procedure is for complaining. I think this is very important at this time in Canada.
Duncan McCue: We've been hearing that this is unfortunately common when when there are workers who are from an international background, and particularly in a factory or in lower level positions. One of the things we're hearing is that there's a whisper. You know, the word of mouth to get around it. Did you hear any of that kind of discussion at all when you went into this factory setting?
IM: I was so isolated that nobody knew. Nobody else knew about this. I was daily enclosed in the lab with this man and I had no records. I didn't know what to do, other than to quit my job. I still feel disgusted when I think of this.
So, it's a lifelong experience after someone treats you, you know, after someone practices the predatory thing on you. And I think it's happening to a lot of people that are feeling helpless.
I have to repeat, it should not be too difficult for the government to implement this policy. Present the worker with the policy around sexual harassment. If you're [an] employer, if you hire a person [or] someone hiring — and what the procedures would be if there was a predatory experience.
All comments have been edited and condensed. To listen to the full interview, click on the link above. This online segment was prepared by Arman Aghbali.