The Canadian Council for Refugee is committed to providing in its workplace and meeting spaces an environment free of harassment and discrimination for all of its employees, volunteers, executive members, members, conference/consultation/workshop/working and core group participants, guest speakers, resource persons, observers and all other persons associated with the CCR and its activities. The CCR expects that its member organizations are similarly committed.
The CCR will establish a committee to deal with complaints. This committee will be known as the CCR Equity Committee and will have three members with good skills and expertise in areas of racism, gender issues, other forms of discrimination, and conflict resolution. Informal complaints will be dealt with by the members of the Equity Committee; however, when a formal complaint is received, the Equity Committee will work with the members of the Executive to establish an ad hoc committee known as the Equity Sub Committee to address the specific complaint.
The relevant policies and the complaint procedures and the names of the Equity Committee members should be posted visibly or included in consultation and working group meetings materials and on the CCR website.
Harassment is an attempt by one person or persons to assert abusive, unwarranted power over another person or persons. Harassment takes many forms but can generally be defined as comment, conduct, or gesture directed toward an individual or group of individuals which is insulting, intimidating, humiliating, malicious, degrading, or offensive to assert abusive and unwarranted power. Harassment can be linked to issues of race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, class, ability et al.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if:
a) decisions affecting the individual are made, or might reasonably be thought to be made based made, based on the individual's reaction to the conduct;
b) the conduct interferes with the individual's performance, role and/or participation in the CCR; or
c) the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Racial harassment is defined as unwelcome attention of a racially oriented nature, including remarks, jokes, gestures, slurs, innuendoes, or other behaviour, verbal or physical, which is directed at an individual or group by another person or group.
Discrimination is defined as the differential treatment of an individual or group that is not based on individual or group performance, but arises from group membership, whether the group be defined by race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, class, ability et al.
The CCR is committed to ensuring the confidentiality of the complaint process. Disclosure of information will only be on a need to know basis and will be determined by the Equity Committee and the Equity sub committee dealing with the specific complaint.
Any individual or individuals who believe that they have been subjected to harassment or discrimination, as defined by this policy, may initiate the following informal or formal procedures for complaint resolution.
The burden of filing and pursuing a complaint may be particularly exacting for person(s) or members of groups who have been historically submitted to harassment and discrimination. In such situations, it is not required that the person(s) affected must make the complaint. Others may do so in their stead or as witnesses to the harassment or discrimination they have encountered.
The CCR Executive and Working Group Co-Chairs are responsible for ensuring an environment free of all forms of discrimination, racism and harassment. They may file a complaint as witness to the harassment, or on behalf of, and with the consent of the harassed person(s). The CCR leader should: consult with the harassed/discriminated person to: a) see if s/he wants a complaint to be filed, b) ask whether they want to remain anonymous and c) get a sense of the kind of resolution that should be sought. When the complaint is filed in this manner the CCR leader will take the role of the complainant and may, when appropriate, consult with the person(s) who have been harassed/discriminated against.
This option provides an opportunity to mediate a mutually acceptable resolution between parties. Complainants who may not wish to file a formal complaint may consult with one or more of the CCR Equity Committee members to seek intervention for the purpose of ending conduct that the complainant believes to be in violation of the CCR policy against harassment. After consultation with members of the committee, the committee may discuss the alleged conduct with the person or persons complained against, remind them of CCR policies, and seek their commitment to comply with this policy. Complainants may request that, whenever possible, such a conversation will be held without revealing his or her identity directly to the person complained against.
The complainant and the person complained against are encouraged to use the informal procedure prior to a formal complaint procedure. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, the formal procedure is the next option available.
Making a Formal Complaint
The person or persons making the complaint (the Complainant) should provide a written statement outlining the nature and circumstances of the complaint to the President of the CCR within 30 days of the incident or incidents provoking the complaint.
The text should:
- Provide a description of the incident or incidents that are the subject of the complaint, and include:
- the names of the persons involved,
- the date of the event
- provide information on the context
- identify how the incident fits the relevant criteria enunciated in the relevant CCR policies.
- Include a summary of steps already taken to resolve the problem, if any.
- Describe what resolution and/or outcomes the complainant hopes for and from whom. E.g. from the CCR, the member organization, the person or persons involved.
Please note: Complaints involving the CCR staff should be directed to the Executive Director for response under the staff complaints policy.
The Equity Committee and the Sub Committee
Within 14 days of the receipt of the written complaint, the President and the Equity Committee will appoint an ad hoc Equity Sub Committee of at least 3 persons to investigate the complaint. Members of the Equity Sub Committee should be members of the Executive and may also include Past Presidents of the CCR. Also they may be members of the Equity Committee. The President, as the appeal mechanism (see below), is not a member of the Equity Sub Committee.
Members of the Equity Sub Committee must declare any conflict of interest at the earliest possible stage and the Equity Committee will decide to excuse the member declaring the conflict or to proceed.
Investigating the Complaint
The Equity Sub Committee will outline its plan and timelines for investigation and will report back to the Executive with recommendations within 60 days of being convened.
The Equity Sub Committee will notify the person(s) against whom the complaint has been lodged and will outline the process and timelines to be followed.
Wherever physically possible, the Equity Sub Committee will meet at least once with each of the Parties in order to investigate the facts of the complaint, receive input from each Party, develop an analysis of the nature of the complaint against the relevant policies and discuss options for resolution with each of the Parties.
Upon completion of its investigation and within 60 days of being convened, the Equity Sub Committee will provide a written report to the Executive of the CCR along with recommendations for follow-up.
Resolving the Complaint:
The Executive will consider the report and recommendations from the Equity Sub Committee as well as any other relevant information provided directly to them and will decide on the follow-up actions to be taken.
Notification of the Executive decisions will be communicated in writing to each of the Parties within 14 days of the Executive Committee meeting.
Appeal of the Executive Decision
If any Party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation and/or follow-up steps, they will provide a written request for appeal to the CCR President within 14 days of receiving the concluding letter from the Executive. The President will consider all the facts and analysis of the complaint as well as any new information provided and will render a decision within 30 days of receiving the request for appeal. The President’s decision is final.
Guidelines for the investigation of a formal complaint by the Equity Sub Committee:
The Equity Sub Committee will contact the person(s) against whom the complaint has been made, to provide full information regarding the complaint.
When making contact with an individual, the Equity Sub Committee must be sensitive to the individual’s right to privacy. Ideally, the person should be contacted through their home address and not at their place of work, unless there is a clear reason for involving the member organization before the investigation is completed: for example, if the individual was acting as a representative or speaking on behalf of the organization when the subject of the complaint occurred.
Wherever possible, the Equity Sub Committee should have at least one face to face meeting with each of the Parties in order to ensure a clear understanding of the nature of the complaint, the circumstances and context of the complaint and that it meets the criteria as described in CCR policies. At this meeting, the Sub Committee should also seek clarification from the Complainant on the expectations for resolution and outcomes following the investigation by the Equity Sub Committee. Additionally, the Sub Committee should provide clear information on the nature of the complaint and how it meets the grounds for a complaint. Every opportunity to respond should be made available, including the submission of additional information, a written response and postponement of the meeting if needed.
As appropriate the Sub Committee may also discuss the options for resolution and outcomes requested by the Complainant as well as other options that present themselves during the investigation.
Following the meetings with both Parties, the Equity Sub Committee will report on its findings to the CCR Executive, including an analysis of the complaint and whether it meets the criteria to be in violation of CCR policies. The report may also include relevant information on similar actions committed by the person(s) about whom the complaint is made. The report should include recommendations for next steps to be taken by the Executive and could include suggestions for sanctions.
Guidelines for the Executive in following up on Equity Sub Committee Reports
If the Equity Sub Committee is convinced that the complaint is well-founded, the Executive must take into account the expectations for outcome of the complainant as well as any additional actions to be taken by CCR.
If the violation was committed by a person or persons in leadership within the CCR and therefore held to a higher test, this may also guide resolution.
Consideration should also be given to the opportunities for awareness building and sensitivity training rather than taking a punitive approach. The benefits of a positive outcome that satisfies both parties is preferable to a win-lose conclusion.
Nevertheless and depending on the severity of the complaint, sanctions along a broad continuum of options may be the only solution. Resolutions may also involve others than the original parties especially if it is reflective of a member organization’s practices not in keeping with CCR values and policies.
Purpose of this Document:
This document provides individuals associated with CCR the mechanism to pursue a complaint of any sort of harassment or discrimination against individuals associated with CCR. This document supersedes all other complaints mechanism previously available at the CCR.
This document does not apply to staff related complaints. Staff is governed by existing Human Resource guidelines that exist at the CCR and managed by the executive director.
Approved by the Executive February 2008