NAC reviewing harassment policy after Albert Schultz allegations

The National Arts Centre is reviewing its harassment policies after allegations surfaced against Canadian theatre star Albert Schultz.

Policy being circulated to all staff and updated, according to Jan. 8 memo

National Arts Centre is reviewing its harassment policies in the wake of allegations against Canadian theatre star Albert Schultz. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The National Arts Centre is reviewing its policies on harassment applying to all staff in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations against Albert Schultz that led to his resignation from the Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto.

In a memo to all staff dated Jan. 8, NAC President and CEO Peter Herndorf said the organization's priority is a "safe and respectful workplace free from any form of harassment" and invited staff to review the harassment policy.

"The policy is reviewed regularly as per our practice and some updates will be made available shortly," Herndorf said in the memo.

Last week, Diana Bentley, Kristin Booth, Patricia Fagan and Hannah Miller took aim at Schultz with four separate civil suits, claiming unwanted sexual touching, groping and harassment over a period spanning 13 years. The statements of claim also named Soulpepper Theatre among their respondents.

None of the allegations against Schultz have been proven in court. Schultz resigned last Thursday, saying he planned to "vigorously defend" himself against the allegations.

Plaintiffs, from left, Diana Bentley, Hannah Miller, Kristin Booth and Patricia Fagan attend a press conference after filing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment by Soulpepper Theatre Company director Albert Schultz. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Soulpepper among NAC 'collaborators'

Carl Martin, the NAC's acting director of communications, said the allegations have opened up a conversation about workplace behaviour.

"Soulpepper is one of the many organizations we deal with," Martin said. "We know that it has a lot of impact for our collaborators the artists that we work with. We're speaking with the artists, making sure they're all right."

Carl Martin, spokesperson for the National Arts Centre, says the news of the allegations against Albert Schultz provided an opportunity to have a conversation about harassment in the workplace. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

He said posters have also been put up backstage so people know who to call if they witness or experience any form of abuse.

"If it happens here people can talk to their supervisor or they can talk to the representatives in human resources," he said. "They can do so in a way that they feel confident without fear of reprisal."

National conference Jan. 17

The NAC will also be participating in a national conference of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT), the Canadian Actors Equity Association and other performing artists unions in Toronto on Jan. 17.

The national association of theatre producers began working on the conference following anti-harassment work in Canada's film and television sector in November, said Sara Meurling, the executive director of PACT.

"While it may not change the content, it does increase the stakes," Meurling said.

While sexual harassment isn't limited to the arts sector, she said there has been a wake up call in the industry.

The aim of the conference is so all performing arts professionals — on stage or backstage in whatever discipline  — can have a standardized access to anti-harassment support and feel their workplace is safe, she said.

"Theatre companies all have to have strong policies and processes and knowledge and understanding of how to administer them, how to conduct investigations, how to be supportive," she said.