A Toronto police officer shares her story of surviving workplace sexual harassment
By Star staff, Toronto Star
Fri., Sept. 4, 2020
Sexually harassed for years by her supervisors, Toronto Police Constable Heather McWilliam fought back. Six years later, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled in her favour.
While many women who endure sexual harassment walk away quietly from their job — often silenced by non-disclosure agreements or the work culture — what happens when some women decide silence isn’t an option anymore?
Constable Heather McWilliam spoke up — but it took six years for her voice to be heard. She paid both a personal and professional price.
The Tribunal has also concluded that what happened to her was part of a culture of sexual harassment that exists throughout the Toronto Police Service. Former Chief of Police Mark Saunders said at the time of the decision “The findings by the Human Rights Tribunal are serious and concerning to me as Chief of Police.”
The department has also issued a statement (see below for full statement) saying that an external law firm has been contracted to provide mandatory sexual harassment training for all members of the Division — which will eventually be expanded to every member of the Toronto Police Force. There are also plans to address procedural issues in cases like these — as ordered by the Tribunal.
Constable Heather McWilliam shares her story with the Toronto Star.
“The Toronto Police Service stands by the comments made by Chief Saunders on June 30, 2020, in response to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s decision regarding Constable McWilliam. Chief Ramer and his Command Team are continuing to take the necessary steps to implement meaningful change in the area of workplace harassment. By way of an update, the Service has contracted a law firm to conduct mandatory sexual harassment training for all members at 23 Division. We are also going one step further by providing training, in 2021, to every uniform and civilian supervisor across the Service. Also, the Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights unit mentioned earlier is collaborating with Professional Standards on a client-centred, resolution process. This collaboration will also mean an equity lens on each case in order to identify trends and highlight any disparate outcomes for marginalized groups.”