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Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence

What is Discrimination?

General Definition

Discrimination is treating a person or group differently, to their disadvantage and without valid reason, on the basis of the following grounds called “protected characteristics”:

  • Ancestry
  • Nationality or national origin
  • Ethnic background or origin
  • Religion or creed, or religious belief, religious association or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including gender-determined characteristics, such as pregnancy
  • Gender-identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Political belief, political association or political activity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Social disadvantage

In addition to these listed characteristics, discrimination that is based on other group stereotypes, rather than on individual merit, is also prohibited under the College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

Key Elements

In order for there to be a finding of discrimination under the College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy, each of the following key elements must be present:

  • There must have been differential treatment (whether intentional or unintentional).
  • The treatment must have imposed burdens, obligations or disadvantages on the Complainant.
  • There must have been no valid reason for the treatment. An example of a “valid reason” for discrimination is the imposition of bona fide requirements or qualifications for a job or field of study where those requirements/qualifications are reasonably necessary to the safe and efficient performance of the employment or field of study).
  • The treatment must have been based on a protected characteristic or other group stereotype.

NOTE: In determining whether or not discrimination has occurred, it is essential to establish a link between the differential treatment and the protected characteristic. “Bad treatment” is not necessarily based on a protected characteristic, just because the characteristic exists. It must be established that the characteristic was a factor in the differential treatment.

Examples of Discriminatory Behaviour

The following are some examples of discriminatory behaviour:

  • Excluding potential employees during recruitment on the basis of a protected characteristic
  • Withholding employment or educational opportunities on the basis of a protected characteristic
  • Employment or academic decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals with disabilities or of a certain sex, race, age, religion or ethnic group

What is Harassment?

General Definition

Harassment is any behaviour that embarrasses, degrades, demeans, humiliates, threatens or intimidates a person, and that a reasonable person should have known would be unwelcome.

Types of Harassment

There are three types of harassment covered by Red River College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy:

1) DISCRIMINATION-BASED HARASSMENT

This is harassment based on one or more of the following “protected characteristics” listed in the Manitoba Human Rights Code:

  • Ancestry
  • Nationality or national origin
  • Ethnic background or origin
  • Religion or creed, or religious belief, religious association or religious activity
  • Age
  • Sex, including gender-determined characteristics, such as pregnancy
  • Gender-identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Source of income
  • Political belief, political association or political activity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Social disadvantage
2) SEXUAL HARASSMENT

There are three types of sexual harassment:

  1. a series of objectionable and unwelcome sexual solicitations or advances;
  2. a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person who is in a position to confer any benefit on, or deny any benefit to, the recipient of the solicitation or advance, if the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome;
  3. a reprisal or threat of reprisal for rejecting a sexual advance or solicitation.
3) PERSONAL HARASSMENT

This is harassing behaviour that creates a risk to the health of an individual or adversely affects their psychological or physical well-being.

Series of Acts or Single Incident?

In most cases, more than one act or event is needed in order to constitute harassment. Taken individually, each act or event need not constitute harassment; it is the repetition that constitutes the harassment. In other words, harassment consists of repeated and persistent behaviours towards an individual to torment, undermine, frustrate or provoke a reaction from that person. Each behaviour viewed individually may seem inoffensive; it is the synergy and repetitive nature of the behaviours that produce harmful effects.

However, one single incident can constitute harassment when it is demonstrated that it is severe and has a significant and lasting impact on the target of the harassment.

NOTE: In the case of sexual harassment particularly, a single incident may be viewed to be more significant in circumstances when the relationship between the complainant and the respondent is one where the respondent has influence or power over the complainant with regard to such things as marking and/or evaluation, career advancement, performance review, day-to-day management of activities and work assignments, etc.

Key Elements

In order for there to be a finding of harassment under the College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy, each of the following key elements must be present:

  • The behaviour must have occurred in the “Workplace or Learning Environment”.
    (Defined in the Discrimination and Harassment Policy as “any physical or electronic environment where Red River College conducts business or College-related activities take place.”)
  • The behaviour must have been improper and offensive.
  • The behaviour must have been directed at an individual.
  • The Complainant must have been offended or harmed. (e.g., feeling demeaned, belittled, humiliated, embarrassed, intimidated or threatened)
  • The Respondent must have known or reasonably ought to have known that such behaviour would cause offence or harm.
  • There must have been either a series of incidents or one severe incident that had a lasting harmful effect on the Complainant.

Examples of Harassing Behaviour

Harassment can take many forms, including:

  • Physical actions (e.g. inappropriate touching, pushing)
  • Verbal behaviour (e.g. using profanity, name-calling, threats, screaming)
  • Gestures and other non-verbal behaviour
  • Displays (e.g, posters, cartoons, graffiti)
  • Electronic harassment (e.g. harassing communications sent via technology such as internet or cell-phone)

The following are some examples of what could potentially amount to harassing behaviour:

  • Spreading malicious rumors and gossip
  • Excluding or isolating someone socially
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding/sabotaging a person’s work
  • Withholding information required to complete a work or study assignment
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying, or stalking
  • Unfairly criticizing a person, and/or belittling a person’s opinions
  • Tampering with a person’s personal belongings in the work or learning environment
  • Making jokes which single individuals out for ridicule
  • Public criticism and/or humiliation
  • Unwanted sexual attention

What is Not Harassment?

  • Appropriate use of authority by a Manager or Supervisor responsible for such functions as performance appraisals, discipline and directing work
  • Appropriate use of legitimate authority by academic staff in determining grades, identifying and preventing inappropriate classroom behaviour and recommending discipline
  • Interpersonal conflict/personality clashes unless the key elements of harassment are present

Informal Resolution Options

The College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy provides that complaints may be resolved by way of an “informal resolution”, as opposed to by way of a formal investigation.

The following are examples of informal resolution options. It is important to understand that this is not an exhaustive list of informal resolution options, and also that these options do not need to be implemented sequentially. To be effective, the informal resolution option must meet the needs and interests of those involved. Consequently, the “best” informal resolution option may be a variation of one of the listed options or a customized combination of several options.

Direct Approach

This option involves the complainant communicating to the offending party (in person or in writing) that the behaviour of concern is offensive and unwelcome, and that they want it to stop.

Students and employees are encouraged to consider taking this direct approach whenever possible; it can be the quickest, simplest, most effective and private approach. However, it can also be the resolution option that causes the most apprehension.

A discussion with the Discrimination and Harassment Office or other trusted member of the College Community, who can provide information, guidance, coaching and resources, can alleviate many of the most common concerns about the direct approach.

Third-Party Support

An individual who prefers to deal with the situation personally but is not comfortable approaching the offending party on their own may choose to take along a trusted member of the College community.

In this variation of the Direct Approach, the sole purpose of the third party is to provide silent support, rather than taking an active, participatory role. The presence of the third party is not meant to be intimidating or threatening; if it is perceived as such the other party may not be receptive to the resolution effort.

NOTE: It is important for individuals providing third party support to understand that if they are witness to inappropriate behaviour, they may be called upon as a witness in subsequent proceedings, if any. Further, it is important that before they agree to assume this role they are not already involved in the issue (a party to the process) nor an administrator who may have a formal role to play if the issue is not resolved without a formal investigation.

THIRD-PARTY INTERVENTION

A trusted member of the College community may play a more active, participatory role as an intervener or intermediary. In either case, the third party is to act as a channel of communication.

As an intervener, the third party conveys the message the complainant is uncomfortable delivering personally. For example, the intervener might identify the behaviour that caused offence and ask the other person to stop.

Alternatively, the third party may act as an intermediary, conducting communication back and forth between the parties until all the issues and responses have been discussed.

Even if issues are not resolved in this fashion, the third party’s efforts often serve to reduce the discomfort that is a barrier to direct communication, paving the way for face-to-face discussion between the parties with or without further assistance.

The effectiveness of this informal resolution option is heavily dependent on choosing the most appropriate intervener/intermediary, having regard to the nature of the issue, the parties involved, the desired outcome and other relevant factors. The likelihood of successful intervention is greatly enhanced if the third party is neutral and/or trusted and respected by both parties.

NOTE: It is important that before the third party agrees to assume this role they are not already involved in the issue (a party to the process) nor an administrator who may have a formal role to play if the issue is not resolved without a formal investigation.

Mediation

Mediation is a structured process in which a trained mediator works with both parties in an effort to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. This process gives the parties an opportunity to be heard, and to hear what each other has to say. Even if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they will at least have a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.

Facilitated Discussion

This option involves an informal meeting(s) between the parties assisted by a neutral third party to discuss the issue(s) of concern. Depending upon the complexity or seriousness of the matter, the third party may be trained facilitator.

This option is less formal than a mediation, and is often used to restore interpersonal workplace relationships.

The Investigation Process

Under the College’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy, an investigation into a complaint of discrimination or harassment may take place following the submission of a formal written complaint where the matter is found to fall within the scope of the Policy and where it is determined that an investigation is appropriate.

No Wrong Door / Sexual Violence Prevention

Red River College is committed to preventing sexual violence, harassment and discrimination and to creating a safe and inclusive working, learning and living environment for everyone.

We have zero tolerance for any form of sexual violence, harassment, or discrimination at Red River College.

If you have experienced any of the above, it is not your fault. You are not alone and there are many supports, resources and people available to help. If you know of someone who has experienced any of the above, there is support for you too.

There is no wrong door at Red River College.

REES community/sexual violence reporting tool

We have partnered with REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) to provide online reporting for sexual violence on campus. REES allows members of our campus community to create a Record of the incident and provides multiple reporting options that include Anonymous Report, Connect to My Campus and Report to Police. REES also provides information about campus and community-based resources such as sexual assault centres, healthcare, and support services. Learn more on the REES website.

Make a Report ›