CBC’s Ghomeshi Report Rejected as Whitewash

In October of 2014, Jian Ghomeshi, long time CBC host of the popular CBC culture/entertainment radio show, “Q”,  was fired by CBC for allegedly sexually harassing certain women both within and without CBC.

In the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal, CBC hired an outside Toronto employment lawyer, Janice Rubin, to investigate the Ghomeshi affair and report back to the Corporation her findings and her recommendations.

The Rubin Report was just released.

Frankly, the report is nothing but a whitewash. This report totally fails to do anything to eradicate the cancerous “star or host” culture that has spread throughout CBC. As a result, the CBC/Ghomeshi scandal is still eating away at the core of the CBC and public support for the CBC continues to decline, out of disgust for CBC’s continued efforts to cover up this scandal. And its failure to thoroughly investigate itself and cleanse itself.

Before I launch into a criticism of the Rubin Report, a little background information is in order.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ( CBC) is Canada’s major public broadcasting network. It is supported by Canadian taxpayer dollars well in excess of $1 billion dollars annually.

One of the mandates of the CBC is to tell Canadian stories to Canadians.

Well, one of the biggest CBC stories of 2014 and 2015 was the CBC/ Ghomeshi story and how he, for years under the eyes of CBC management and CBC employees, allegedly emotionally abused and sexually harassed CBC female employees. And CBC did nothing.It turns out that CBC not only turned a blind eye to Ghomeshi’s deplorable conduct, certain CBC middle managers, Chris Boyce, executive director of radio and Todd Spencer, executive director of human resources, under the guise of investigating employees’ complaints against Ghomeshi, failed to properly investigate Ghomeshi and hold him to account. In effect, they apparently covered up Ghomeshi’s misdeeds.

Then when some of Ghomeshi’s deplorable actions came to the attention of CBC’s most senior executives, in the summer of 2014, these senior executives initially failed to act on the information, presumably hoping that these allegations would disappear into the ether.

CBC senior brass only acted later in October of 2014 to fire Ghomeshi when they learned that the Toronto Star was about to publish an explosive expose of a multitude of allegations against Ghomeshi by over a dozen women, some of whom were CBC employees and former employees.

In order to forestall a more comprehensive investigation of Ghomeshi and the whole of CBC by truly independent outside investigators, CBC hired Janice Rubin, a Toronto lawyer, who had had a previous contractual relationship with the CBC and had been a guest on several CBC panels.

Basically a friendly investigator.

Though Ms. Rubin was technically an outside independent investigator, there is an appearance of lack of impartiality, objectivity and independence.

Furthermore, the CBC had severely restricted her mandate to investigate and had constrained her investigatory powers.

Rubin was limited to investigating Ghomeshi and the two CBC shows with which he was involved at the CBC. Rubin did not have subpoena powers.  Nor did she have the power to grant immunity to prospective witnesses.

Accordingly, Rubin was not able to talk to many relevant witnesses, who feared that anything they disclosed could be used against them in subsequent proceedings.

As a result, according to well-known Toronto employment lawyer,  Howard Levitt, writing in the National Post, the Rubin Report was a dismal failure.

The Rubin Report did not disclose any more information that had not already been discussed and disclosed already in numerous Toronto newspapers, prior to the report.

Though the report talked about a cancerous “host culture of impunity” in the CBC, that had been endemic to the CBC for years and years, the report failed to deal with any other CBC hosts or stars, both past and present.

The report just limited itself to Ghomeshi and to two managers who were responsible allegedly for permitting Ghomeshi to continue his conduct- unfettered, unrestricted and unpunished.

As Levitt wisely noted, “Jian Ghomeshi did not act alone. His predations were countenanced by a plethora of managers and people in human resources – people who, but for two, still remain.”

Employment lawyer Daniel Lublin, who also reviewed the Rubin Report, made a similar point.

Lublin stated, “The four executives who were participating in that conference call (Lacroix, Conway, general counsel Maryse Bertrand, and vice-president, people and culture, Roula Zaarour), of course, are still there, and this all happened under their watch, and yet it’s the other two (Boyce and Spencer) who were cut,” he said.

“Someone had to go. It wasn’t going to be the CEO or Ms. Conway. Why? Because they call the shots. (Leafs president Brendan) Shanahan didn’t fire himself, he fired everyone else. That’s because when you’re the boss, you get to call the shots.”

Howard Levitt was also particularly disappointed at what the investigation and report failed to do. Specifically, Levitt argued,

“What the report did not do is make the recommendations that the public most wanted to know and which are most needed to cleanse the organization. Who exactly said what to whom? Who should be disciplined? Who should be fired?

What disciplinary procedures should be put in place going forward? What is the specific line for unacceptable conduct in the workplace? What are the lines for reportable misconduct and what are the consequences for crossing them?

Howard Levitt wisely concluded,” That investigation should properly have been done by an independent body with power to subpoena and get to the bottom of problems we have come to learn were endemic at the CBC. Of course, that would have resulted in a revamp of the entire organization, doubtless many dismissals, and threatened the existing CBC establishment.”

I totally agree with Mr. Levitt. A truly independent body with teeth, authority and subpoena power needs to investigate the CBC from top to bottom.

Otherwise, the CBC will never eradicate the cancerous culture of entitlement and host culture of impunity that continue to course through the CBC body.

Certainly, Canadians’ hard-earned tax dollars should not be used to fund a toxic environment where apparently senior male CBC hosts emotionally and sexually prey on vulnerable female employees.

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