Harassment and Sexual Harassment FAQ
Harassment and Sexual Harassment
At Canadian Mennonite University we work to promote and maintain an atmosphere that reflects our commitment to nurture and respect one another. When members of our community behave in ways that are not respectful to others we strive to address these issues directly and in a spirit of sensitivity and mutual respect.
Freedom from discrimination and harassment is a fundamental right of all members of the university community, whether on or off-campus.
The following information concerns student-to-student complaints. Complaints regarding a work supervisor, staff, or faculty member may be brought to a Student Life Staff member, but the process of filing a complaint follows a different process than the one outlined here. In situations of discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct involving a staff or faculty member, students are to contact Dianna Robson, Director of Human Resources.
These FAQs have been designed to answer some common questions people have about these types of issues. For more information, please consult a member of the Respectful Campus Committee.
What do discrimination and harassment look like?
According to the Manitoba Human Rights Code harassment is any behaviour that degrades, demeans, humiliates, or embarrasses a person, and that a reasonable person should have known would be unwelcome. Harassment and discrimination can be:
- Based on a person's gender, race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnicity, citizenship, age, record of offenses, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or disability
- Burdens, obligations, or disadvantages put on an individual or group
- Abusive and objectionable behavior, physically, and/or psychologically
- Patterns of conduct that extend over a period of time, or a single incident of offensive conduct
- Any behavior, language or terminology that reinforces stereotypes and undermines self-respect or adversely affects work, or educational performance or working/learning conditions
- Withholding or limiting access to opportunities, benefits, and advantages available to others
- Creating an uncomfortable, degrading, intimidating, humiliating or marginalizing environment for the person experiencing it
- Directed at a particular individual or towards a group (e.g., creating a poisoned learning environment through demeaning comments or conduct towards a group in general)
- When submission to abusive or objectionable comment or conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a condition of employment or academic success
- Making derogatory comments about a minority group, even though no member of that group is present
- Demeaning individuals who offer dissenting opinion
- Stalking (not only is stalking prohibited at CMU, it is also an offense under section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada.) For purposes of this Protocol, stalking is defined as an intentional course of repeated conduct over a period of time which causes a person to feel alarm, emotional distress, or fear, whether or not it is done with intention of scaring that person or where it results in physical injury. Stalking can also include threats of harm to the target's friends or family. Examples of stalking behavior include but are not limited to:
- Non-consensual communications
- Threatening or obscene gestures
- Surveillance and pursuit
- Sending unwelcome gifts
- Unwelcome communications by e-mail, phone, social media (including "creeping" via social media and cyber-stalking)
- Uttering threats
What is sexual misconduct?
Sexual misconduct is a broad term used to describe unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. The term sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, behaviors often described as sexual harassment, sexual assault, and the threat of sexual assault. It is a violation of the Student Community Guidelines to commit these acts or to attempt to commit them, as well as a violation of applicable federal and provincial laws. Sexual misconduct can occur in any sex or gender configuration, regardless of sex and gender identity. Sexual misconduct may vary in its severity and consists of a range of behaviors.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. It includes comments or conduct involving unwelcome sexual advances or other comments or conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct might reasonably be expected to cause insecurity, discomfort, offense or humiliation to another person or group. Such conduct may be considered sexual harassment if one's status or treatment as a student is dependent upon submission to such conduct. Any comments or conduct of a sexual nature that intentionally or unintentionally interferes with a student's work or education performance or creates an intimidating, offensive or poisoned environment can also be considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and can be committed by students of any gender or sexual orientation.
Some examples of sexual harassment are:
- Displays of pornographic or other sexual materials in the form of degrading pictures, graffiti, cartoons, or sayings
- Repeated or persistent unwelcome flirtations, advances, or propositions
- Acts of leering, staring or making sexual gestures
- Sexual advances with actual or implied work or education-related consequences
For purposes of this Protocol, sexual assault is defined as sexual activity or touching by any object or body part of another person without consent or by force. Not only is sexual assault prohibited at CMU, it is also an offence under section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
What is consent?
Consent, interpreted in this Protocol, is an informed, knowing, and voluntary decision to engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive or silent. It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in the sexual activity to make sure that he/she has consent from any other person(s) involved. Consent is required regardless of the party's relationship status or sexual history together. Consent can be revoked at any time, and cannot be assumed from previous consent to similar activities. This means that there must be an understandable exchange of affirmative actions and/or words, which indicates a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. It is also imperative that everyone understands the following:
- Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated or unable to make a rational decision by alcohol or drugs
- Silence or non-communication must never be interpreted as consent and a person in a state of diminished judgment cannot consent
- A person is incapable of giving consent if they are asleep, unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate
- A person who has been threatened or coerced into engaging in the sexual activity is not consenting to it
- A person may be unable to give consent if they have a mental disability preventing them from fully understanding the sexual acts
- The fact that consent was given in the past to a sexual or dating relationship does not mean that consent exists for all future sexual activity
- A person can withdraw consent at any time during the course of a sexual encounter
* Note: other comments or behaviours that are not on this list may also be considered harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct.
How do I know if I have experienced harassment or discrimination?
It is possible to feel harassed or discriminated against even if the other person or persons didn't intend any harm. One test that people sometimes use is to think about whether or not a reasonable person would consider an action to be harassment or discrimination. Feelings of bodily or emotional discomfort or anxiety can be a sign that something is not right. Just because someone else may not feel uncomfortable doesn't mean that what you have experienced isn't harassment or discrimination. If you suspect that you may have experienced harassment or discrimination, it can be helpful to talk to someone about what you have experienced. Some people that you may want to consider talking to could be your RA or CA, a staff or faculty member, one of CMU's on-campus counsellors or any member of the Respectful Campus Committee. These people can help you to better understand your experience and can advise you about what options are available to you.
How can CMU help me if I have experienced harassment or discrimination?
CMU has several processes that can be used to address harassment and discrimination. Since every situation is unique, the process to address each situation will also be somewhat unique. CMU will work with all the individuals involved in a situation to determine a course of action that is appropriate. At any stage of the process, you have the right to choose to pursue legal action.
Option A: Conversational — If you have experienced harassment or discrimination, one of the first things you may want to consider doing is speaking with Student Life staff member or someone else you trust such as a Residence Assistant, other student leader, faculty, or staff member. These people can help you to decide what course of action suits you and your situation best. Often harassment or discrimination occurs unintentionally and in these cases, the issue may be resolved directly with the other individual(s) involved. A Student Life staff member can help you prepare for this conversation or may communicate directly with the other individual on your behalf. Speaking a faculty or staff member does not constitute filing an official complaint and your conversation will be kept confidential.
Option B: Written Complaint — Should communicating directly with the other individual fail to resolve the issue or is simply not appropriate, you also have the option of filing a written complaint with the Respectful Campus Committee. In order to file a written complaint you must submit a written description of the event(s) to a member of the Respectful Campus Committee.
This written description must contain: i) context and details of the incident; ii) date and time of the incident; iii) all parties involved in the incident; iv) what has occurred since the incident; v) any other pertinent information.
The Respectful Campus Committee will then arrange a private meeting with you to hear your story and discuss some of the various options for how the complaint can be processed. This usually happens within 2 weeks of the complaint being filed. The RCC may ask clarifying questions during this meeting. You may choose another person to accompany you for support during any meetings throughout the process. However, the person cannot speak on your behalf or interfere with the process.
Once a written complaint has been made, you may consider several options. One of these options, if determined to be an appropriate course of action, and if everyone involved wishes to do so, is mediation. A third party mediator may be brought in to work with all the individuals involved in the complaint. The goal of the mediation is to find a way to work towards restoration/resolution that attempts to meet the needs of everyone involved. This can involve one or more structured meetings between the various individuals involved in the complaint.
An investigation is another option. An outside investigator may be brought in to oversee the process. During this process, all individuals involved in the complaint have the right to present evidence and witnesses. At the end of the investigation the Respectful Campus Committee will prepare a report for the Dean of Student Life, who will determine if disciplinary measures are necessary.
Examples could include mandatory counselling, suspension from school or restriction of campus access. This investigation can often be resolved more quickly than mediation, but also tends to have less flexibility.
What happens if a written complaint is filed against me?
If a written complaint is made against you a member of the RCC will contact you to inform you of the complaint, and give you a copy of the written complaint. You also will have the opportunity to submit a written account of the events in the complaint. This written account will be considered your official statement to the RCC.
The RCC will arrange a private meeting with you to hear your story and discuss some of the various options for how the complaint may be processed. This usually happens within 2 weeks of the complaint being filed. The RCC may ask clarifying questions during this meeting. You may choose another person to accompany you for support during any meetings throughout the process. However, the person cannot speak on your behalf or interfere with the process.
What about confidentiality?
CMU will work to keep any complaint confidential. In some cases, however, the Respectful Campus Committee may need to speak with other people about what happened in order to fully process a complaint. You can speak with any member of the Respectful Campus Committee if you are unsure of what confidentiality may look like in your specific situation.
What about false reports?
While complaints of harassment or discrimination may be hard to prove at times due to lack of evidence or witnesses, this should not discourage you from reporting an issue to the Respectful Campus Committee. However, any complaints that are found to be intentionally dishonest or made maliciously without regard for the truth may be subject to disciplinary action.
What about retaliation?
CMU will not tolerate any threats or other forms of intimidation or retaliation against anyone who is involved in a complaint that has been brought before the Respectful Campus Committee. Any threats or other forms of intimidation may be subject to disciplinary action.
What about appeals?
Once any process has been completed, the Dean of Student Life will inform all individuals involved in the complaint of the outcome and any disciplinary actions being taken. If you do not agree with the decision of the Dean of Student Life you have 14 days to appeal the decision.
Appeals need to be submitted in writing to the President within 14 days. The President will then respond to the appeal within 30 days.
What other resources are available for me?
- Drop-in line: 204.784.4067
- Sexual assault crisis line: 204.786.8631
- Crisis Line: 204.786.8686
- Local police - Non-emergency calls: 204.986.6222
- Toll Free Province-Wide Domestic Abuse Crisis Line: 1.877.977.0007
- Men's Resource Centre: 204.415.6797 ext. 250 (not a 24-hour emergency line)
- Recovery of Hope Counselling Centre: 204.477.4673
- Manitoba Human Rights Commission: 204.945.3007
- Fort Garry Women's Resource Center: Fact Sheets & External Resources
- Resource for Men: Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services
- On-campus counselling service (book through North Side Receptionist): 204.487.3300
- On-campus emergency contact number: 204.292.3331
Staff Contact Information
Coordinator of International Student & Accessibility Programs
Marilyn Peters Kliewer
Dean of Student Life
Director of Human Resources