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Connecting the Dots on Sexual Misconduct in the Philanthropic Sector: Part Two - The Response

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Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Access (IDEA): Diversity and Inclusion (IDEA)
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This is the second of a two-part series that AFP Global Daily has been working on about sexual misconduct. Connecting the Dots on Sexual Misconduct in the Philanthropy Sector Part One: When Women Speak Out was published on October 31st.

Part Two: The Response

In the wake of a Tough Topics track held at AFP Congress 2018 in Toronto featuring four sessions about significant issues facing women in the sector, seasoned fundraiser Liz LeClair, CFRE, decided she would go public with her experience of being sexually harassed and assaulted by a donor of the charity where she worked.

Cementing her decision was a Congress plenary speech from Hadiya Roderique. Roderique was named one of Canadian Lawyers’ 25 Most Influential Lawyers in 2018 and calls herself a “diversity and inclusion advocate.” LeClair said Roderique really spoke to her when she said the onus is not on the marginalized and those who are victimized to speak up. It is on people with more privilege and power to advocate for change.

LeClair sees herself as privileged. “I am white, cis-gendered, and fortunate to grow up in a family where I was able to afford a good education. I live in a two-income household, and my husband works in the military. So, ultimately, a lot of what I've been talking about will not adversely affect his career.”

She says that speaking publicly about her experience has been one of the most challenging things in her life.

“But it’s also been one of the most rewarding in the sense that I have acquired an incredible network of men and women around Canada, in the U.S. and beyond who have shown their support,” she says. “It’s also taught me what needs to be changed in our sector.”

Liz LeClair was recently named the new chair of AFP’s Women's Impact Initiative at the recent Women’s Impact Summit, held in Phoenix, Ariz., on October 5-6.

As the chair of the Initiative, she will be in a position to drive some of that change.


The high profile allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against film producer, Harvey Weinstein, catapulted sexual harassment and assault into the news cycle during the fall of 2017. The initial allegations were published almost simultaneously in early October, first by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in the New York Times  and, five days later, by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. All three reporters won the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service, and the information revealed throughout the fall and winter of 2017 ignited the demand for a reckoning from what would be labelled the “#MeToo movement.”

“Tarana Burke, a social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase Me Too in 2006, on the Myspace social network in order to promote "empowerment through empathy" among women of color who have been sexually abused,” according to its Wikipedia entry. After the Weinstein story broke, American actress Alyssa Milano used the hashtag on Twitter to encourage people to come forward with their own stories. 

In their new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement (Penguin Press, September 9, 2019), Kantor and Twohey have followed up on their reporting by uncovering previously undisclosed sources related to the number of people who knew about Weinstein’s activities but failed to act.

And Ronan Farrow, in his new book on the same subject, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little Brown, October 15, 2019), elaborates on his original reporting. AP News calls the book “utterly disheartening in its revelation of widespread abuses and cover-ups, the leverage of power and money to evade accountability, and the many lives that were devastated in the process.”


One week after the Weinstein story broke in early October 2017, Canadian actress Mia Kirshner penned an op-ed for the Globe and Mail,

“I could waste this precious space on Harvey Weinstein by describing my own ordeal with him. An ordeal in a hotel room where he attempted to treat me like chattel that could be purchased with the promise of work in exchange for being his disposable orifice,” Kirshner wrote.

“But I'm not giving that man, a newly crowned figurehead of sexual abuse, the privilege of more ink. There are broader and more urgent issues to address. And if we don't address them now, I fear that when the headlines about Harvey Weinstein fade, what will remain is a disease in my own industry.”

She went on to describe the act of “turning a blind eye” to sexual assault and harassment by people with power within the film industry, and how the fear of speaking out had become “malignant.”

In December 2017, the Globe and Mail hosted a symposium called “AfterMeToo,” where Canadian film and TV professionals examined workplace sexual violence within the entertainment industry.

The symposium released a report with nine recommended actions. Most related to the entertainment industry, but three could be extrapolated into workplaces across the board.

  1. Increase funding to support services for survivors of sexual violence across Canada;
  2. Create technology to support survivors; and
  3. Demand leadership accountability.

AfterMeToo is now a registered charity, which describes itself as “born within the Canadian film and television industry to activate concrete change to stop workplace sexual violence, in particular for vulnerable and precarious workers.”


The Government of Canada was also moved to take action on sexual harassment and, on October 25, 2018, passed Bill C-65, a piece of legislation it says “will protect employees from harassment and violence in federal workplaces, including the federally regulated private sector, the federal public service and parliamentary workplaces.”


The three main elements of Bill C-65 are “the prevention of incidents, a timely and effective response to incidents, and support for affected employees,” the government said in a statement.

Broadly speaking, federally regulated industries include banking, the extractive industry (mining, oil and gas), telecommunications and broadcasting, food and agriculture, drugs and health products, cultural trade and investment, and textile regulation.

Although charities are regulated and approved by the Canada Revenue Agency, they are not seen as being part of a federally regulated industry and, therefore, its workers are not protected by the provisions of Bill C-65.


AfterMeToo continued to galvanize support through 2018.

“[They] came to the Canadian Women’s Foundation initially because people were telling them we were funding gender-based violence,” said Beth Malcolm, vice president, community initiatives at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. 

In March 2018, the Foundation announced the creation of the AfterMeToo Fund with a goal of $7 million that would be administered by the Canadian Women’s Foundation and provide funding to organizations that support mental health, hospital and court accompaniment and long-term counselling for people affected by sexual misconduct

“The fund didn’t move forward as quickly as we would have hoped,” Malcolm said. “Times Up did well in the U.S. with celebrities giving big gifts, but we could not replicate that dynamic here in Canada. The work was able to move ahead, however, with support from the federal government.”

As part of supporting Bill C-65, the federal government committed $34.9 million of spending over five years, starting with $7.4 million in 2018-19, which included $3.5 million annually  dedicated to grants and contributions through the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation, in partnership with AfterMeToo and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), applied for funds through the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund for a project involving sexual harassment training aimed at people working in the broadcast and extractive industries (both federally regulated), and the creation of an online platform called Rosa.

The announcement of a $2.8 million grant to be spent over five years was made by the Honourable Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour, during a panel discussion on July 6, 2019. Mia Kirshner, co-founder of AfterMeToo and founder of Rosa; Paulette Senior, president & CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation; and Jean La Rose of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network were in attendance.

“The federal funding came to the Canadian Women’s Foundation,” said Malcolm. “The AfterMeToo board is small and building. Its origins were in the arts and entertainment industry, but they are gradually growing beyond this sector. They have been fortunate to have many advisors along the way and we are helping them build their capacity."

Rosa, the online education platform, is seen as a vital part of the project.

Rosa was created as a response to systems and tools that made it far too challenging to understand laws, reporting systems and how to access justice and report,” said Kirshner. “These systems are scattered across the Internet. The goal of Rosa is to make it easier to understand the law and your rights, get help and access supports no matter where in the country you are. This is holistic work and part of that will be working with leadership to identify policies and practices that will lead to elimination of workplace sexual violence.”

Rosa is expected to launch in Spring 2020.

“So far, we have contractors involved in training development and synthesizing the legal content in plain language,” says Malcolm. “The director of Rosa and a project director from the foundation are two salaried positions. And we’re working with experts at Western University to develop training materials for the extractive industry. When Rosa is live, the information on it will be relevant to everyone, including those working in the charity sector.”

Sarah Lyon, CFRE, who works out of Halifax, has been on the board of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada for the past two years and was a major catalyst behind the Tough Topics track at AFP Congress 2018 in Toronto, agrees with Malcolm.

“We know some people working in the philanthropic sector are paid just above a living wage,” she says. “Having a tool like Rosa, a place to go for advice—legal and otherwise—is invaluable. Not only are we a vulnerable sector, we work with vulnerable sectors—new Canadians, low-wage income earners and so on. Rosa is another tool to share with them.”


Fundraisers understand, however, there is much work to be done specifically directed at people who work in the philanthropic sector, especially in light of a survey released in April 2018 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and AFP which found that 25 percent of female fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment in their careers.

By facilitating opportunities like the Tough Topics session at AFP Congress in Toronto in 2018 to help individual survivors make their stories public, to conducting online surveys and developing local and regional pockets of resistance, fundraisers are becoming engaged in this issue in different ways.

“There is a small community of women fundraisers called @MsRuptNow,” says Lyon. “And we have  MsRuptNow shirts and  pins, which indicate, you can come talk to me, and while you’re learning about major gifts, you can learn about other things.”

MsRuptNow came about through a group of Canadian fundraisers who had experience with sexual misconduct on the job or supported those that did.

A National Day of Conversation—#ndoc—is another initiative, set for November 26, which will allow as many individuals as possible to participate in a virtual conversation about sexual harassment and assault regardless of their location and availability.

It’s a way for people to bring their stories forward, reach out to an engaged community and help bring forward positive action and change, says Wanda Deschamps, one of the organizers.


The problem requires a cultural shift, says Liz LeClair.  

“Policies and procedures are great, but this is something bigger than just policies and procedures,” she says. “And while I'm prepared to hold people accountable, I don't know if everyone else is in a position to do that.  We must support those willing to speak up about this issue.   AFP’s Women Impact Initiative is taking those initial steps, and we have to continue to ensure that we—and our counterparts across Canada—hold ourselves to a higher standard and say that these things are unacceptable.”

“You know, the women who went to Harvey Weinstein's hotel room, as much as they probably didn't love it, didn’t think they would get raped,” she says. “No one goes to meetings with the expectation they will be sexually harassed or physically assaulted.”


It remains to be seen to see how much risk charity leaders are prepared to take by knowingly putting their staff in harm’s way when they do not act on reports of sexual harassment and assault by donors, staff or board members.

As journalists and authors have exhaustively documented, a large part of the reason why sexual harassment and assault goes on for so long is because the people in power who knew about it did nothing.

For more information about AFP’s Women’s Impact Initiative and information and resources on preventing harassment and addressing gender inequity, go to

Gail Picco is a charity impact strategist, author and book blog editor.

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