Saskatchewan

Regina non-profit executive resigns amid sexual harassment allegations

The executive director of a Regina organization that works directly with vulnerable and homeless youth has resigned after allegations of sexual harassment were posted on a Regina Instagram account.

Street Culture Project says a third-party investigation is underway

Dustin Browne referred CBC News to the post he made in direct response to the allegations that were posted to a Regina Instagram account that lets people share stories of alleged sexual violence anonymously. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

The executive director of a Regina organization that works directly with vulnerable and homeless youth has resigned after allegations of sexual harassment were posted on a Regina Instagram account.

Dustin Browne said he's resigned from his role as executive director of Street Culture Project, Inc. effective immediately.

"I acknowledge that I have taken for granted that the power and privilege I have been afforded as a male, as well as my actions, have created a toxic and unprofessional environment," Browne wrote on Instagram, directly responding to a post made public on the Survivor's Stories Regina page, an account that offers a platform to survivors of sexual violence who want to share their stories anonymously.

"I will be attending counselling to better understand the negative impact I have had on female colleagues and staff," Browne wrote.

When asked for comment, Browne referred CBC to his Instagram post, in which he said he had "become aware" that his actions caused a negative impact with some staff, colleagues and friends.

'Serious allegations have been made'

Street Culture Project CEO Kim Sutherland declined to comment to CBC News early Thursday afternoon and did not respond to email.  Prior to Browne's public response, Street Culture Project announced on social media that a third-party investigation was underway because "serious allegations have been made." The post did not name Browne, but thanked people who came forward. 

"Please know we take these allegations extremely seriously as they do not reflect the values of Street Culture Project. The individual was immediately suspended," the post read. 

However, Browne's response to the allegations, which came about thirty minutes after, said he had resigned effective immediately.

The anonymous post made to the Survivors Stories Regina Instagram account described "a serial sexual harasser," but did not name Browne. However, other people who commented on the post told CBC News it was about him and he directly responded to the post. 

The anonymous author wrote that they had worked for a youth organization that serves marginalized, racialized and victimized youth. They said the alleged abuser "is a trusted figure in the lives of young people, and a powerful influence over those who work for him." 

"The organization was then, and remains today, toxic," the anonymous poster wrote, alleging they experienced near-daily sexual harassment at the organization, including commentary by colleagues about their sex life, unwanted touching and groping, unsolicited sexually explicit text messages and belittling comments. 

They also alleged that this person was "sexualizing young people, lusting over vulnerable teen girls, and young practicum students." 

Browne has worked at Street Culture Project for years. As executive director, he oversaw "the multi-million dollar agency, its numerous programs and over 100 staff," according to his LinkedIn profile. He has been awarded the City of Regina Crime Prevention award and was a winner of CBC's Future40 award in 2013. 

The non-profit charitable organization operates Regina group homes and works with vulnerable youth in group programs, work opportunities and one-on-one mentorship.

Browne said in his post that the board and leadership are working toward positive change. 

"I only wish that the good work of the organization and all those involved will not be discounted as I believe in many respects the community is a better place because of all's (sic) efforts involved." 

In response to his post, one woman said she believed it is because of what Street Culture Project offers youth that "nobody spoke up sooner."

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