Another Complaint Against ASFA at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission

Claims the Association Failed to Take Action on Sexual Harassment by Former President

  • ASFA faces a complaint from the Quebec Human Rights Commission for the second time in just over three years. File Photo Tristan D’Amours

A complaint against the Arts and Science Federation of Associations is being sent to the Quebec Human Rights Commission over an alleged lack of aid to former student Harris Turpin who said he faced sexual harassment from then ASFA president Jonathan Roy.

On Turpin’s behalf, the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations is representing Turpin who hopes to claim major moral and punitive damages against ASFA. CRARR said in a press release they hope to see “mandatory training on civil rights and sexual violence for ASFA agents, directors and member organizations.”

CRARR is also asking for a survivor-centered sexual violence policy for the association and is demanding ASFA create a permanent task force on sexism, racism, and oppression.

“This isn’t about him anymore, this is about ASFA and their complete neglect of responsibility, disrespect for my person and just ignorance to what they’re supposed to do,” said Turpin.

“The complaint was filed at the end of May,” said Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR.
“We definitely want concrete policies, actions and measures set in place to avoid a third [complaint at the Quebec Human Rights Commission].”

“The precedence that was supposed to be set—the Mei Ling incident—and the policy that was supposed to be in place is not only shoddy, full of holes, but wasn’t enforced properly or at all,” Turpin said.

Mei Ling was a former ASFA executive that faced sexual and racial discrimination from two executives in the fall of 2014. Mei Ling won the case in November 2015 and ASFA had to pay her an undisclosed amount of money and issue an official apology.

In a February ASFA council meeting, the room agreed to remove the associations’ harassment policy due to criticisms that it was not survivor-centric enough.

They resolved to follow the same wording as the CSU’s harassment policy, however, the CSU does not have one.

“I know the year is just starting, but I haven’t heard anything about ASFA doing anything to stop this or implement a policy, a harassment policy,” Turpin said. “ASFA hasn’t had one since February.”

Turpin said that they tossed the policy two days after he had an informal meeting with Roy, president for the Concordia Classics Student Association Balbina de la Garza and the Advocacy and Executive Coordinator Marguerite Rolland.

Turpin said he was called “bitch boy” and “butt boy” not only by the former president, but other members of ASFA.

“You can laugh it off a few times, but it’s pretty degrading when everyone knows you as XYZ’s bitch boy,” he said.

He said the final straw was when the then-president harassed him during an event in January where he and Turpin, along with others at ASFA, were there to represent the organization. Turpin said the former president began touching his nipples, however, Turpin told him to stop repeatedly, even while the both were at ASFA events.

At this event, Turpin said fellow student Zoe Miceli saw one of Roy’s advances. This prompted them both to initiate a website in response to the then-president’s actions. The website outlined Roy of abusing his authority and Concordia’s student associations of power imbalances.

A Mediation Process That Never Materialized

He said he had an informal mediation with two other colleagues, Rolland, who he said handled this passively, as well as de la Garza.

Rolland said before the events occurred, Roy was a friend of hers while Turpin was an acquaintance. Following the meeting, she said she spoke with Turpin and suggested for someone to replace her, to seek an objective mediator. She said Turpin declined and with that a formal mediation never happened.

“I went into and carried out this situation with good faith and intention, although I understand now that intention versus impact are two very different things,” said Rolland.

“I was part of a meet up concerning [Turpin] and [Roy] because [Turpin] did not want an outside mediator and preferred for people he knew to be present during the meeting, thus not making it a mediation,” de la Garza said. “He was asked by me to bring in an outside mediator, but he refused as he said he felt more comfortable being among friends.”

“I know that my behavior has been described as passive, and I never intended to invoke this descriptor regarding any such an instance again,” Rolland said.

“Some really amazing and knowledgeable people have been working on a survivor centered harassment policy for ASFA,” Rolland said. “It is integral going forward that we necessarily provide such support and understanding to our students.”

Rolland said ASFA will also be requiring member associations executives to read the policy and confirm that they understand the content, as well as confirm it governs their work as an executive.

“I can’t change my past involvement now, but I can ensure clear systems are put into place to mitigate any potential harms or difficult situations that might occur as a result in the future,” Rolland said.

Inadequate Apology

Following Turpin’s pair up with CRARR, Roy resigned.

On the same day, ASFA released a statement on the resignation, apologizing that they had not properly addressed the situation of harassment. Turpin was sent an email linking him to the statement on the ASFA website.

“That’s not even an apology, it’s just a statement on what happened,” said Turpin.

Niemi said there is systemic homophobia involved, as well. “Somewhere we think that male to male sex harassment is not to be taken seriously,” Niemi said.

“Five months ago I would have been fuming and chewing my nails off in my seat,” Turpin said. “But now it’s just tempered into disappointment.”

“They still really haven’t abided by anything set in the Mei Ling incident and its refuse to do the right thing,” Turpin said. “We already said, “Oh this isn’t going to happen to anyone else with the Mei Ling incident,’ yet here I am.”

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