Top brass at the CBC are silent on what they knew, and when, about allegations of violence and sexual harassment against disgraced radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
President Hubert Lacroix, executive vice-president of English services Heather Conway, and head of radio Chris Boyce did not return multiple requests for comment on Thursday, the same day the media company told staff it was hiring an external firm to investigate allegations against Ghomeshi within the CBC and offering counselling services.
“Given that these matters are now before the courts and the grievance arbitration process, we will be limited in our communications,” CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in an emailed statement to the Star.
“We look forward to the opportunity to fully disclose the facts of these matters. We are extremely confident that CBC will be seen to have acted very quickly when we concluded that we could not continue our employment relationship with Jian Ghomeshi. In the fullness of time, we believe that the information will demonstrate that the CBC acted as a prudent and responsible employer.”
Multiple women, including Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere and journalist and author Reva Seth, have spoken out in the Star and other media alleging that Ghomeshi choked them, pulled their hair and hit them hard in the face and over the head. The 47-year-old met some of the women during his 2012 tour to promote his best-selling memoir, while others he met at cultural events or at the CBC.
The former host of Q, who had been with the CBC since 2002,was fired on Sunday. He launched a $55-million lawsuit against the company the following day. In a statement released Thursday on his Facebook page, Ghomeshi said, “I intend to meet these allegations directly.”
While CBC executives have not spoken publicly, they are communicating with staff about the Ghomeshi allegations. In a memo announcing the third-party investigation and counselling, Conway called the Star and CBC reports “extremely disturbing and of great concern to all of us.”
She praised the “professionalism” of staff and reminded them that while they are not prevented from responding to reporters’ questions, they should not feel obligated and should feel comfortable directing inquiries to the public affairs department.
It isn’t just current CBC managers maintaining their silence. Kirstine Stewart, who was in charge of English services from 2011 to 2013 and is now VP North American media at Twitter, told the Star in a tweet to contact the social media site’s PR department, which did not return a request for comment.
On Wednesday evening, when the Star’s latest story containing the allegations of eight women against Ghomeshi was posted online, Stewart tweeted in response to a question from NOW journalist Jonathan Goldsbie: “Reading it along with everyone else for the first time. Stunned. Horrible.”
Former CBC president Robert Rabinovitch, who was at the helm of the CBC from 1999 to 2007, said he “never received any information, or allegation of sexual harassment, towards women with respect to Mr. Ghomeshi.”
Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of English services from 2004 to 2010, and who was in charge when it was decided to move Ghomeshi from an afternoon radio timeslot to 10 a.m. in 2007, said: “There was never any conversation or indication at the time that there was anything problematic about his behaviour.”
When asked about the decision to put Ghomeshi in a timeslot that would make him one of the CBC’s most recognizable voices, Stursberg said executives thought he had a “great cultural feel” and was a terrific interviewer.
“I was saddened for everybody,” said Stursberg on the allegations. “I was saddened for the CBC, I was saddened for Jian’s career, and sad for the women. It seems pretty difficult all around.”
Denise Donlon, head of radio from 2008 to 2011, did not return phone and email requests for comment.
The union representing CBC employees is also keeping a tight lid on information, after it announced Wednesday that one CBC employee who spoke with the Star did not report her allegations to a union representative, but rather a colleague who was a union volunteer. The union said this person was not given the details the woman shared with the Star.
The president of the union’s CBC branch, Marc-Philippe Laurin, told the Star to contact the union’s national office, where president Carmel Smyth said, “Neither I nor any of the union reps (8) or staff who work for the Canadian Media Guild have heard of , or have a record of any harassment complaints similar to those” in the Star’s coverage.
The union says that had a formal complaint been filed, it would have investigated.
Meanwhile, media reports out of Ottawa stated Thursday that Carleton University is reviewing its records of journalism students who interned at Q and offering counselling to anyone who might want it.
A second woman has revealed her identity while describing allegations of abuse against her by former CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi.
Reva Seth, author of the book The MomShift and lawyer, wrote an account of her experience with Ghomeshi in a blog post published by Huffington Post Canada on Thursday, making the total number of women accusing him of being violent towards them nine.
In 2002, Seth, then 26, met Ghomeshi when she was starting a new job at city hall and a masters program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Upon first meeting him at a grocery store, she found him “funny and charming,” and started seeing him casually.
She writes that over the course of a summer, they attended a couple of parties together and watched a movie at his house.
“I was seeing other people and I’m pretty sure he was also.”
Seth says she and Ghomeshi never discussed anything related to BDSM and had “only casually fooled around — a bit of kissing.”
However, on one such evening, which “started out fine,” after they had a drink and smoked some marijuana, Ghomeshi’s behaviour suddenly changed, she writes.
“Suddenly, it was like he became a different person,” she writes. “He was super angry, almost frenzied and disassociated.
“Jian had his hands around my throat, had pulled down my pants and was aggressively and violently digitally penetrating me with his fingers,” Seth recounts. “When it was over, I got up and it was clear I was really angry. My sexual interactions until then had always been consensual, enjoyable and fun.
“He gave me some weird lines about how he couldn’t tell if I was actually attracted to him or not,” she writes about what happened afterwards. “And somehow this was meant to explain his behaviour.”
Seth says she called a cab and left right away, and Ghomeshi walked her to the door “like it was all totally normal.”
She debated coming forward for fear of “judgment, online trolls, the questioning of all your other choices,” as well as possible assertions that her experience was not bad or happened too long ago.
Seth also believed if she came forward, that she would be “eviscerated” because she had willingly gone to Ghomeshi’s house, drank and smoked marijuana with him, and had a sexual past.
She had decided to not see Ghomeshi again, ignoring his calls and messages over the following weeks, and not to involve the police.
Seth was moved to come forward with her story after hearing Lucy DeCoutere speaking on CBC’s The Current about her “remarkably similar experience” with Ghomeshi. DeCoutere, who played Lucy on Trailer Park Boys, first detailed her allegations against Ghomeshi to the Toronto Star, along with seven other women who have asked not to be identified.
In a brief Facebook post Thursday, Ghomeshi thanked his supporters and said he will not be speaking with the press about the allegations, but that he intends to meet them head-on.
Shortly before any allegations became public, CBC fired Ghomeshi, who had worked for the public broadcaster for 14 years. They announced on Thursday that they were hiring a third-party company to investigate allegations against Ghomeshi.
On Thursday afternoon, Ghomeshi’s crisis communications firm Navigator and PR agency rock-it promotions both stated that they would no longer be representing him.
Ghomeshi filed a $55-million defamation and breach of trust lawsuit against the CBC on Monday, in which he alleged his former employer had made a “moral judgment” about his sexual preferences, including bondage and rough sex, which he described in a Facebook post on Oct. 26.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says a cancerous tumour in his abdomen has not shrunk after two rounds of chemotherapy, and he will need another round.
Ford tells the Toronto Sun he will start the new treatments on Monday.
On top of that, the mayor says he has pneumonia and is taking “a heavy dose” of antibiotics.
Doctors discovered a rare and aggressive cancer in Ford’s abdomen in September and were hoping chemotherapy would shrink the tumour so they could operate.
The mayor says while the tumour has not become any smaller, it has not increased in size since either.
Ford will remain mayor until Dec. 2, when John Tory takes over after winning last week’s mayoral election. Ford won election as a councillor after dropping out of the mayoral race following his cancer diagnosis.
OTTAWA—CSEC, the uber-secret spy agency that you probably never heard of, has quietly donned a comfortable old identity and shed part of its more modern name — just like a top secret spy would.
Communications Security Establishment Canada, the spy agency that collects foreign security intelligence by combing the Internet and airwaves of the world, is dropping “Canada” from its name.
For old hands, CSE is the familiar handle. It was always hard to get used to C-S-E-C.
The CSE traces its history back to Second World War decoding operations that Canada conducted in support of Britain. In 1946, operatives were gathered under the communications branch of the National Research Council, and later, in 1975, named the Communications Security Establishment, reporting to the defence minister.
Since the 9/11 terror attacks, the CSE has doubled its staff, now numbering about 2,000 top-flight military and civilian signals technicians, experts in encryption and decryption, and intelligence analysts.
It is CSE that provided crucial intelligence on threats to Canadian military personnel in theatre in Afghanistan. It is CSE that acts as Canada’s ears to the world.
It wears a couple of other hats too: guardian and protector of Government of Canada communications systems; and technical supporter of Canadian national security and law enforcement agencies when they act under judicial warrants to conduct covert surveillance.
So why the name change?
In an email titled, UNCLASSIFIED, the agency’s media relations office suggests nothing’s changed. Ryan Foreman says the legal title of the organization was, and is, CSE.
However, in 2007, along came instructions for every federal department and agency to comply with what was a stricter branding measure.
“Under the Federal Identity Program, which requires all federal departments and agencies to have the word ‘Canada’ as part of their corporate title, the word ‘Canada’ was added to create the agency’s applied title, the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC,” Foreman wrote.
He said the “applied” title is all that changed and the legal title remains Communications Security Establishment.
The change started to appear in the past six months, matching CSE’s URL, which had never changed to pick up the Canada word mark.
So that is as clear as mud. Asked what do CSEC, er, CSE agents call it now over coffee, at meetings in their swanky new $4-billion building, Foreman was, well, enigmatic.
“We use the two titles interchangeably.”
Pamela Minocha, 33, died in a Toronto hospital after a toothache. Because of a provincial secrecy loophole, her family doesn’t know why.
Her parents don’t know if her unexpected death could have been prevented, because what happened is a secret shielded by the sweeping Quality of Care Information Protection Act (QCIPA).
Invoking the act is discretionary, and critics say some hospitals interpret the act to mean they don’t have to share how an incident happened or what’s being done to prevent it from happening again.
QCIPA can trump all other legislation, including freedom-of-information law, and allow Ontario hospitals to hide the results of critical care investigations from families, the public and even coroners.
Toronto medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte said the act has created “ongoing problems with the openness and transparency of our entire health care system.”
“It’s very common for a hospital to first of all hide behind a QCIPA shield and secondly to be very inaccurate and sloppy in their quality-control investigations because of it,” Harte said.
In September, Ontario Health and Long-Term Care Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins launched a review of QCIPA to improve the legislation after a Star investigation.
The series included a family unable to get answers after their 20-year-old son committed suicide under psychiatric care, and a hospital that refused to release any information about how a newborn baby was wrongly declared dead. Hoskins’ review is due to be completed in mid-December.
QCIPA was created to allow health-care workers to freely share mistakes in a confidential environment in an effort to prevent future errors.
Minocha’s death was the subject of one of 12 critical-care investigations held at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in the past three years, the Star has found.
St. Joseph’s chose to place all 12 incidents under the protection of QCIPA — making it one of only two health centres in Toronto that keeps all critical investigations secret.
In contrast, Toronto East General hasn’t used the controversial act in more than five years.
The discrepancy “underlines the problem in having important public policy left to the discretion of individual hospitals to such an extent,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, previously told the Star.
“It should not be up to hospitals to so widely interpret what the public can and can’t have access to.”
Minocha was a healthy, vibrant MBA student at Wilfrid Laurier University who was admitted to St. Joseph’s with a swollen face last May, according to medical records obtained by the Star.
A day earlier she had been diagnosed with a dental abscess and prescribed Clindamycin, an antibiotic for serious infections, by a dentist. Minocha began to feel unwell and started vomiting after taking the medication, her medical records show.
Her brother, Arvin Minocha, told the Star that after she was admitted to hospital, doctors spoke to her Calgary-based parents over the phone and said she was alert, stable and going to be “fine.”
Her parents boarded a four-hour flight to Toronto. Minocha died before they touched down.
A preliminary autopsy report lists her cause of death as hypersensitivity myocarditis — an allergic reaction to the drug she took that attacks the heart.
In May this year, Minocha’s family received a short letter from the hospital on the findings of the review.
The letter contains only nine sentences and said Minocha received “intensive and appropriate treatment.”
It offers no other details about her care.
When family asked for more information, St. Joseph’s said the review was complete and it would “not respond to further communications about this matter,” according to a follow-up letter from the hospital.
In an emailed statement to the Star, St. Joseph’s chief of staff, Dr. Ted Rogovein, said a quality of care review into Minocha’s death was “protected under QCIPA.”
Rogovein, who was not made available for an interview, said the legislation had not prohibited the hospital from sharing the facts of the review with the family, including a follow-up phone call and Minocha’s patient chart.
Last Friday, after the Minocha family’s fight for information was highlighted by CTV News, St. Joseph chief executive Elizabeth Buller and other hospital leaders called the family to discuss their concerns, Rogovein said.
The family has not been given a copy of the quality of care review and has no idea what it covered. They still don’t know what happened in the hours leading up to Minocha’s death, or if it could have been prevented.
What answers the family has been able to glean from St. Joseph’s over the past year and a half have been contradictory, they say.
“Anyone can imagine how painful it would be to receive a five-sentence letter from a hospital containing no information at all about the death of your child,” Mehra, of the Ontario Health Coalition, said.
QCIPA was a “giant secrecy loophole” that gave hospitals the discretion to decide what they would and would not tell families in critical situations such as this, she said.
The unanswered questions and inconsistencies in information surrounding Minocha’s death have stolen her family’s time of mourning, Arvin Minocha said.
He described his sister as a selfless individual who loved life. She volunteered to feed the homeless during holiday seasons and had dreams to one day get married and have five children.
“Rather than celebrate the person my sister was and grieve this tragic loss, we are still at a loss for how a system could lack such transparency and ownership,” he said.
“We were told she was going to be fine, and then her heart just stopped. We are still waiting to know whether something more could have been done.”
NDP federal health critic France Gelinas said the case raises more questions about the act itself.
“This law is in need of clarification,” she told the Star.
A coroner’s investigation into Minocha’s death continues.
With files from Jane Gerster
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