It’s Re-Peculization ‘: Victims of sexual harassment, advocates complain of’ uncivilized treatment ‘by MPs in committees

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Members look forward to a special meeting of the Standing Committee on Health on 12 February 2021 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wilde / The Canadian Press

Melissa Lucings was in the midst of sharing her expertise in cybersecurity and had a live experience as a former sex worker during a commons committee hearing earlier this month when the meeting suddenly turned into a confusing scuffle of partisan flirting. Has gone.

Instead of focusing on Leukings’ testimony and asking her questions, Liberal MP Brenda Shanahan used the allotted time for an allotted time motion with the witnesses.

The irony is, ironically, for the committee “to hear from further witnesses at their next meeting of at least two hours.”

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“What kind of witness?” Lookings asked her seat at the virtual meeting.

But she was no longer allowed to speak and said that her video link was silent.

After a 40-minute adjournment, during which Lucings said MPs were yelling at each other, the meeting came to an abrupt end.

“You are sitting in front of all these people, who you know are in Parliament who can mute you, who can suddenly say, ‘No problem. We have to cut the feed … No, you have to No need to ask a question, no, you don’t need to know that, ” she said in an interview.

“It was ignorant and rude and very aggressive, honestly.”

The meeting was one of several commons committees calling on witnesses – mainly women – who have been victims of sexual assault, exploitation and trauma, and inviting them to share their experiences and recommendations for change.

Members of Parliament are bound by conferences that make this process extremely regressive, including limited amounts of speech. But a growing number of victim advocates believe that committees should develop a more trauma-informed approach to dealing with vulnerable witnesses.

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The kind of experience and behavior that MPs have at other points in the meeting has made Lucings so angry, saying he would discourage others through a similar experience himself.

“It is suffering again.” This is what they have done… because they are talking to you and they are redefining your own experience and this is a very, very big reason why I would not advise people to participate in committees anymore. “

The Ethics Committee, which invited Lucings to speak, is looking at how to protect the privacy and reputation of people who appear on pornography websites such as Pornhub. Another study under the status of the Women’s Committee is also looking into widespread allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The evidence shared by women to share their experiences is emotionally more charged and graphic than the typically dry parliamentary hearings traditionally called scholars, community leaders, and bureaucrats.

Julie Lalonde, a teacher of sexual violence prevention, says she was upset with the way women were sharing their deeply personal stories of sexual abuse and was constantly being cut off during their testimony by lawmakers.

A meeting occurred several times when Lalonde attended on April 8 with two women who experienced rape and sexual trauma during their time in the military.

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“To cut people because you have this parliamentary process that says you have minute-and-a-half to ask questions and to get answers so everyone gets a turn, I think they have to think again Needs, ”Lalonde said of the rules of the committee.

A spokesperson for Christine Wood, a group of just 700, who led a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over sexual violence in the armed forces, also attended the April 8 meeting.

As she was describing what trauma she suffered while serving as a reservoir for the Air Force, she suddenly stopped and fell silent due to several medical issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I will stay there. This is all happening really quickly. I am not used to this kind of hurry and so forth. I’m sorry if it’s taking too long. “

Conservative MP Merlin Gladu, chairwoman of the committee, described Wood as “doing very well”, but then jumped to the next MP for a question without an inquiry with Wood as to whether she would be okay to continue. is.

“Many people presenting have suffered deep trauma, so their ability to hear a question off-the-cuff and answer off-the-cuff is compromised by the state that they are in, and any recognition of that at the moment No, ”said Lalonde.

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“You are asking people to entertain themselves and prove that their experiences of trauma are real, but you have to do it under these criteria which is clearly, arbitrary … I am amazed at the idea. I just have to be how it is, because it is not that way.

Tamara Cherry, a former crime reporter who now provides training and assistance to victims who want to tell their stories to the media, says many survivors may be re-traumatized by certain kinds of questions and perspectives.

He said that victims involved in criminal court cases in many provinces are provided with a support person who walks them through the court process and helps prepare them for what to expect.

He said that since the criminal justice system, which has long dealt with women who have been victims of sexual harassment, has developed some tools to support the victims, Parliament can formulate a better strategy.

“It lacks its own structure and time to testify before a parliamentary committee, and it can be very disturbing and even triggering for some survivors,” Cherry said.

Not only should MPs and senators be trained in more trauma-informed approaches to interrogation and preparation, committees should also provide a support person to guide and assist vulnerable witnesses.

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“If a witness is being called to share their trauma for the betterment of society, there should be support of the place to ensure that they do not suffer further from this process.”

Heather Bradley, director of communications for the speaker’s office, said witnesses invited to speak on committees are usually “individuals who have already publicly discussed their experiences,” which lawmakers often refer to as potential witnesses Let’s recognize.

Bradley said in a statement, “That committee said that the committees have the option of hearing testimony in camera and weeding out any personal information from their records for the protection of witnesses.”

“This is usually done on request by a witness, although in some cases the committee will take steps ahead of time to ensure anonymity of its witnesses.”

Bradley said the committee’s clerks “may seek to make arrangements as necessary to assist health professionals within the House of Commons administration,” which may include mental health professionals.

The women who spoke to The Canadian Press for this story say that they were not given any support or recommendation to professionals before or after the meeting.

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Each stated that the only support they presented was technical, as witnesses currently appear to be due to COVID-19.

Lucings says that he was told that he would have to buy a specific type of headset at his own cost before he could be present to listen to translators and MPs.

“I was really disappointed, because I worked so much, I worked so much, I put a lot of time into it and I believe I was invited, because I felt they wanted me there, and it One was a lie. It was optics. “

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