Bungled Jian Ghomeshi Investigation Playing Out at Taxpayers’ Expense


by Howard Levitt, Financial Post | November 10, 2014 2:57 PM ET

Jian Ghomeshi is shown in a handout photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout/CBC Jian Ghomeshi is shown in a handout photo.
Two bungled sexual harassment investigations — the CBC versus Jian Ghomeshi and inside the federal Liberal party — are both playing out in the public eye at taxpayer expense. In both cases, we taxpayers are getting awfully paltry “bang for our buck,” since both investigations are already being handled abysmally and have a strong likelihood of coming up short.


The Ghomeshi story is morphing from concern about the host’s conduct into evolving disquiet as to whether his behaviour was covered up by CBC management, and how pervasive the culture of harassment may be at the CBC.


If, as is increasingly alleged (and as I have personally been told by one complainant), management took no action after being informed of Ghomeshi’s misconduct, there could not only be sanctions by the Canadian Human Rights Commission but significant negligence lawsuits from victimized women both against CBC managers and the corporation itself.

Damages for negligence can be dramatically higher than in dismissal cases, amounting, in extreme cases, to income for the rest of a complainant’s presumed working life (compared to the 24-month effective limit for wrongful dismissal).

The CBC conducting its own investigation is like putting a fox in charge of solving an abused-chicken case.

The federal government should be the one investigating its Crown corporation, letting chips fall where they may. Unlike the CBC, the government has no ostensible interest, other than protecting taxpayers and CBC employees. Unlike the CBC, it has no institutional bias that would favour a whitewash. Even if the investigation by the CBC into its own misconduct were conducted honestly, Canadians would naturally be suspicious of a cover-up.

The CBC has strong incentives to see that incriminating facts never come to public light. This investigation unfortunately has the appearance of being designed with that very resistance in mind. Though it is ostensibly a publicly owned institution, the CBC has made it clear that the investigator’s specific findings will never be revealed and all the public will be permitted to know is the recommendations for improving the corporate work environment. According to CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson, the CBC doesn’t want to “compromise the confidentiality we promised any current or former employee that may come forward.”

This is nonsense. No sensitive identities need be compromised as long as pseudonyms are used (“Jane Doe”, “Complainants X, Y and Z”) and identifying details omitted. That the investigation’s scope is narrowed to only the two shows hosted by Ghomeshi and not systematic problems across the organization can only heighten suspicions about a corporate whitewash. The CBC is a public institution; the public has an interest in how it is being managed.Advertisement

 But if the CBC is going to proceed with investigating itself, it should at least make it appear unbiased and transparent. It has done neither. As National Post columnist Robyn Urback pointed out, the CBC appointed an investigator who has actually worked previously with the broadcaster, including at least one live web chat.

As Urback put it, “There’s no shortage of competent, experienced lawyers in Canada, who also happen to have no connection — past or present — to the CBC. Those people should be first in line to oversee the Ghomeshi investigation, not someone from the CBC’s own rolodex.”





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