Nova Scotia

Shambhala Buddhists outline process for addressing sexual misconduct allegations

12 allegations of sexual misconduct were reported in the past 6 years, international council chair says.

12 allegations of sexual misconduct were reported in the past 6 years, council chair says

Members of the Shambhala community are engaging 'in our own moment of reflection' as part of the #MeToo movement, council chair Joshua Silberstein says. (Mihai Surdu/Shutterstock)

A leader in the Shambhala Buddhist community says the organization is taking steps to create "safe spaces" for those alleging sexual misconduct.

The chair of Shambhala Buddhism's Kalapa Council, Joshua Silberstein, said in the past six years there have been 12 allegations of sexual misconduct made against people in leadership positions within the religious organization, whose international administration is headquartered in Halifax.

Speaking from Boulder, Colo., Silberstein said of the approximately 14,000 members in the international Shambhala community there are around 3,200 people in leadership positions, many of whom are teachers.

Silberstein confirmed a variety of actions were taken in response to the 12 complaints, including removing some teachers from their posts. One case led to charges.

"Shambala is engaging in our own moment of reflection as part of the #MeToo movement," he told the CBC's Information Morning, adding that community members need to work together "to determine a path forward."

He did not say whether any incidents of sexual misconduct were alleged to have taken place in Nova Scotia.

'What do we not know?'

Silberstein said the council has tried to address every allegation made since 2002, when the International Shambhala Care and Conduct Policy was launched, along with a formal investigation process.

"Now the real question is, what do we not know?"

Going forward, he said any complaint would be investigated by a third-party organization, even if the alleged incident happened decades ago. "It is not our desire to silence anyone," Silberstein said.

He said he's hoping recent changes will make it easier for people to come forward and share their stories.

'We must do better'

The Kalapa Council released a letter to all members of the Shambala community on Feb. 12. In it, council members acknowledged there have been "instances of sexual harm and inappropriate relations" within the community and "we must do better."

On March 19 the organization announced a series of new initiatives, including the creation of a sexual harm task force composed of industry professionals as well as those who've experienced abuse, Silberstein said. The next step is to survey the community, he added.

In October, the plan is to launch new policies aimed at addressing sexual harm within the organization, Silberstein said.

Shambhala founder Chogyam Trungpa picked Nova Scotia to be the world headquarters for Shambhala Buddhism in the late 1970s.

With files from the CBC's Information Morning.