May 29, 2020

Winnipeg
5° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

U of M to overhaul relationship rules, training

Privacy laws may hinder transparency, university director warns

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2018 (526 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The University of Manitoba says it’s updating its rules and training after a series of sexual harassment allegations and investigations against faculty. However, provincial privacy laws may stifle any move toward transparency.

"The bottom-line reality is that privacy law in Manitoba, together with the rules of labour relations in Manitoba, pretty much preclude the university from saying anything about an investigation against an individual. They can’t do it," said Karen Busby, director of the Winnipeg school’s Centre for Human Rights Research.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>The University of Manitoba is updating its rules and training after a series of sexual harassment allegations and investigations against faculty.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The University of Manitoba is updating its rules and training after a series of sexual harassment allegations and investigations against faculty.

Busby is part of the university’s review, but was speaking from her own perspective.

On Wednesday, U of M president David Barnard reiterated his apology for the school’s "failures" in handling sexual harassment allegations.

He wrote in his year-end message that he briefed the board of governors last week on internal and external reviews of U of M policies around sexual assault, respect and handling complaints.

Barnard wrote that these will include "development of a guide on intimate relationships, and significant enhancement of our education and training on these topics for faculty and staff."

But his message did not mention moves to increase transparency, despite privacy rules playing directly into one of the school’s harassment allegations.

Jazz professor Steve Kirby left the U of M after a sexual harassment investigation and was hired by the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which U of M never told about the probe because of provincial privacy legislation. Berklee fired Kirby after students contacted the U.S. school themselves.

Kirby was arrested by Winnipeg police in May. He was charged in September with sexual assault on a U of M music student for alleged incidents that occurred between September 2014 and January 2017, police said.

Busby said her university’s hands are still tied in trying to give students and complainants information about these sorts of situations.

"I’ve done academic articles on it — because I hate it — I’ve really struggled with the questions around privacy law. And I have really wanted to say to the university: ‘You’re hiding in the foxhole of privacy.’ But it’s clear, when you review the provisions in the privacy acts across the country, including in Manitoba, that universities can’t disclose information about ongoing investigations, or the outcomes of those investigations," she said.

"As crazy as that sounds, that’s clear in the law, and it’s up to provincial governments to change that."

A Manitoba government spokesman, who refused to be named, wrote that the province "is committed to the values of openness, accountability and transparency of government operations."

The spokesman said officials are undertaking the legislated provision of the existing privacy law "to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness in making public information available and protecting personal information."

Bureaucrats are reviewing the recommendations they received, but have no deadline.

In any case, the province has tasked all universities with revising harassment policies, and Busby said her colleagues are taking it as an opportunity to learn from policies developed elsewhere.

"You cannot read into the fact that we’re reviewing our policies, that that’s an admission of a problem," she said.

Busby believes the spate of allegations that emerged this year are a sign of people feeling more comfortable coming forward, and faculty better understanding the rules.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us