Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in 2014, apologized for inappropriate actions toward a former co-worker at the CBC. As a result of Ghomeshi’s May 11 apology statement, Kathryl Borel’s sexual assault charge was dropped.
“I want to apologize to Ms. Borel for my behaviour towards her in the workplace,” Ghomeshi said in part.
He went on to admit he “crossed boundaries inappropriately” and that his actions were wrong.
“I failed to understand how my words and actions would put a co-worker who was younger than me, and in a junior position to mine, in an uncomfortable place. I did not appreciate the damage that I caused, and I recognize that no workplace friendship or creative environment excuses this sort of behaviour, especially when there is a power imbalance as there was with Ms. Borel. This incident was thoughtless and I was insensitive to her perspective and how demeaning my conduct was towards her. I understand this now.”
In a statement outside court, Borel described what led her to press charges against Ghomeshi in 2014.
“Everyday, over the course of a three-year-period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body. He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity. There are at least three documented incidents of physical touching. This includes the one charge he just apologized for, when he came up behind me while I was standing near my desk, put his hands on my hips and rammed his pelvis against my backside, over and over, simulating sexual intercourse.”
Borel explained that she did complain to the CBC but was ignored, and that she felt threatened by Ghomeshi.
“Throughout the time that I worked with him, he framed his actions with near-daily verbal assaults and emotional manipulations. His inferences felt like threats, or declarations like I deserved to have happening to me what was happening to me. It became very difficult for me to trust what I was feeling. Up until recently, I didn’t even internalize that what he was doing to my body was sexual assault because, when I went to the CBC for help, what I received in return was a directive that yes, he could do this, and yes, it was my job to let him.
“The relentless message to me from my celebrity boss and the national institution he worked for were that his whims were more important than my humanity or my dignity. So I came to accept this. I came to believe that it was his right.”
Borel said “in a perfect world” Ghomeshi should have been convicted but that she was willing to accept an apology in order to get him to admit what he did. However, she pointed out that there are many others who claim assault by Ghomeshi who have not been apologized to. “I think we all want this to be over, but it won’t be until he admits to everything that he has done,” she said.
The CBC issued a May 11 statement, published on J-Source, apologizing that CBC allow “this kind of behavior” and pointing to the changes CBC has made since firing Ghomeshi and learning of the allegations against him..
“Just over a year ago, we released the Rubin report, an independent investigation into our workplace. Some of these recommendations still require more work but we’ve made progress in all areas including new training, a helpline, policy renewal and staff surveys,” the memo from Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO, and Josée Girard, Vice-President, People and Culture, said.
Two executives at the CBC were fired in 2015 after the CBC’s investigation conducted by employment lawyers at Rubin Thomlinson LLP, as iMediaEthics reported at the time. The lawyers found Ghomeshi’s conduct “abusive” and said the CBC “failed.”
Ghomeshi was previously found not guilty of other charges of sexual assault and choking in March.
iMediaEthics has written to the CBC for comment in response to Borel’s statement.
UPDATE: 5/14/2016 8:34 AM EST The CBC sent iMediaEthics a copy of its memo about Borel’sstatement and Ghomeshi’s apology. The statement reads in full :
“What Ms. Borel experienced in our workplace should never have happened and we sincerely apologize for what occurred.
“As we said in April of 2015, the incidents that came to our attention as it relates to Mr. Ghomeshi’s conduct in our workplace were simply unacceptable. We apologized then and we do again today.
“To be clear, like the trial in February and the subsequent ruling, this particular court case is also unrelated to our decision to end Jian Ghomeshi’s employment with CBC. As we said in March, based on the evidence that came to our attention, Mr. Ghomeshi’s actions were not in line with the values of the public broadcaster nor with our employee code of conduct and we stand by this decision.
“We accepted the findings of the Rubin report and have since made significant progress on all the elements of our year-one action plan. We’ve launched new mandatory training programs for HR staff, for managers and for all employees. We’ve introduced a new bullying and harassment helpline. We’ve revised our process for capturing the details of bullying and harassment complaints. We are responding to complaints with renewed discipline and rigour, and learning from the data to improve prevention and early resolution.
“The past year’s progress has set a strong foundation for what’s next and the work that remains. That is, to have a broader conversation around culture with a clear focus on a healthy climate to support the wellbeing of all our staff.”