Alberta NDP plans to hire third party to oversee internal harassment complaints

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The Alberta Opposition Leader said her NDP is considering hiring an independent third party to oversee future harassment complaints from staff and volunteers.

The announcement comes a day after Rachel Notley acknowledged to party members in an email that they were facing issues over the treatment of staff and volunteers.

Notley told reporters in Calgary on Thursday that she and the rest of the party executive recommended “that we find another independent body that specializes in investigating, mediating and resolving respect and harassment complaints in organizations.” .

She said the aim is “to provide a safer place for people to raise concerns about their experiences when they engage with our party.”

Notley said the idea will be discussed and voted on by senior party officials this weekend.

A pattern of abuse

She said the change was a response to an internal letter leaked to the media last week and written three months ago by 15 NDP constituency chairs and regional vice-chairs in Notley and the party executive.

The letter’s authors called for an independent third-party review of what they said was a pattern of volunteer mistreatment. They said it was important to determine what happened in order to make recommendations to fix the problem. They called it “essential to restore trust”.

When asked why the proposed third-party harassment monitor would look forward but not back – as requested in the letter – Notley said: “I don’t recall a request for review retroactive from one of the complaints that had occurred previously.

“But I will say that if there were complaints that happened before people wanted to be reconsidered with the independent process, I think we would be very willing to allow that to happen.”

The letter also said there were concerns about how candidates were selected in the nomination contests, with long waits for some candidates leading to questions of possible favouritism.

He further pointed to the concerns of presidents of riding associations who are kept out of the picture and whose input is not taken seriously.

Several volunteers and former volunteers told The Canadian Press of repeated cases of verbal abuse by staff, belittled and harangued during individual or group sessions.

Notley, who was asked on Thursday to outline the types of willful abuse they heard about, declined to do so.

“At this point, I think most of the issues that are at issue are already in the public sphere.”

“Hollow Words”

Three former party volunteers who held various positions over the years but left over concerns such as the treatment of volunteers said Notley needed to do more.

Brandon Beavan, the former gender and sexual diversity caucus co-chair, said the party announced internally in early 2020 that it was reviewing and updating its anti-harassment policy, but Notley now says the work began in the fall of 2021.

“The timeline for me doesn’t fit and the party hasn’t done any work,” Beavan said in an interview.

“They’re just trying to cover it up more and more with empty words and they’re not really going to act.

“There must be an independent, transparent and open investigation into these complaints and allegations of abuse and harassment.”

Wyatt Tanton, a volunteer and member of the party’s youth wing who once stood for a candidacy in the Camrose constituency, said: “This is the first time the party has really addressed the issues that have become this big story for the past few weeks but was bubbling under the surface for years before that.

“It’s basic [human resources] stuff honestly. If it was a business, it would be a serious problem for them, but it seems the NDP hoped it would go away without having to do anything. »

It’s about when are you going to treat volunteers with respect, whether or not there’s an election coming up.-Ben Angus

Ben Angus, a former volunteer and former president of the Edmonton-Whitemud NDP riding association, said he was skeptical of the party’s ability to solve the problem.

“It seems like they’re just trying to push it down the road and hope it goes away as the election approaches,” Angus said in an interview from Australia, where he lives.

“The worries are no longer whether we will win [the election] in 2023.

“It’s about when are you going to treat volunteers with respect whether or not there’s an election coming up.”

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