Former CBC employee 'frustrated' with union response to Jian Ghomeshi allegations

A former CBC employee who says Jian Ghomeshi, an ex-radio host at the public broadcaster, sexually harassed her at work is shocked and outraged that the nature of her allegation is being disputed.

Former Q employee says she made allegations against Ghomeshi in 2010

Jian Ghomeshi, the former host of CBC Radio's Q, was fired on Oct. 26. Since then, a widespread national conversation has started about sexual assault in Canada. (Chris Young/ Canadian Press)

A former CBC employee who says Jian Ghomeshi, an ex-radio host at the public broadcaster, allegedly sexually harassed her at work is shocked and outraged that the nature of her allegation is being disputed.

In an interview with CBC News, the woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, says she is infuriated at suggestions she did not tell a colleague familiar with union matters in 2010 that Ghomeshi made lewd sexual comments to her.

"This is infuriating. There is not a chance in the world that I would have stuck my neck out, gone to the union —something I felt deeply uncomfortable about doing for fear of being seen as a whiner or a baby — and not said everything that was happening to me. I am not someone who holds information back."

But what she shared is being questioned by the Canadian Media Guild, the trade union that represents most CBC employees.

In an interview Wednesday, CMG president Carmel Smyth said, "from the information from our investigation the actual seriousness of the complaint, its sexual nature, wasn't shared at that time."

The woman claims on one occasion, in 2007, Ghomeshi leaned in and said "I want to hate f--k you to wake you up" after he noticed her yawning during a morning meeting,

That same day, as they walked to the radio studio, she alleges Ghomeshi said he wanted to "grudge f--k" her. The woman also alleges that on at least one occasion, Ghomeshi physically groped her.

Afraid to speak out, the woman said she confided only in close friends and colleagues. But in 2010, she says she approached Timothy Neesam, a CBC employee familiar with union matters, for advice. She says she told him about Ghomeshi’s inappropriate behaviour.

The woman did not file a formal complaint but recently reached out again to Neesam via email this year to discuss their conversation from years earlierCBC News has obtained the recent email correspondence between them, which began in July. 

In that exchange, Neesam wrote to her saying he remembers their initial conversation. In an email dated Oct. 28, 2014, Neesam said he remembers her telling him "about Jian behaving inappropriately (verbally/in attitude) toward you."

But the next day, Neesam added, "I have no recollection of you telling me about physical touching," and, "it's not information that I would have excluded from any of my conversations with anyone."

In the same email he says the information "was passed verbatim to the CBC radio manager, and also verbatim to the Q executive producer. Senior management is now aware of those conversations."

Arif Noorani, the former executive producer of Q who has since taken a position with a different CBC Radio program, has repeatedly insisted, "At no point was an allegation of sexual harassment brought to my attention."

Neesam has not commented on what he shared with Noorani and has not named the radio manager he also notified.

But CMG president Smyth also said the woman did not bring up any allegations of sexual harassment with Neesam.

“I'm aware of what she is alleging and I am just telling you from my investigation that's not the information I have — it was more along the lines of it being a difficult work place," she told CBC News. 

The woman says she is shocked that her story is being denied.

"It was the very purpose of my going to talk to him (Tim Neesam) for no other reason than for the sexual harassment.

"I’m frustrated because this is a really great opportunity to have a conversation about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace and that’s not going to happen if they don’t face up to the notion I was telling the truth," she said. 

She says the case has now become a dispute over which version of events is true. 

It’s not clear if any of the woman's allegations were brought to the attention of upper management in 2010. The matter is now being investigated by a third party brought in by CBC. 

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson says that the "third-party investigation will seek clarity on this and any allegations of harassment" at the public broadcaster.

Ghomeshi is now the subject of a police investigation after three women filed complaints against him alleging he was physically violent without their consent. Six other women have gone to the media with similar stories.

Ghomeshi has not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

In his latest statement on October 30, he said he intended to meet these allegations directly, and that he doesn't intend to discuss the matter any further with the media.

With files from CBC News producer Sylvene Gilchrist