Hello Boris [Boris Martin is current CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada/ EWB],
The last time we spoke was immediately after the EWBetter session in Ottawa at the Spring Leadership Retreat. I approached you and very directly said, to your face, that if you didn’t solve the inherent issues within your management of this organization that I would have to take a more drastic approach to my role as President of the UManitoba Chapter. I gave you a soft deadline of September, and now that month has come and gone without any significant changes made whatsoever. Marginal improvements in health and safety/sexual violence policies are not the type of systems change that EWB claims to be at the very core of its mission statement. Hiring an Ombudsperson is not systemic change. I am refusing to sign an MOU that is hypocritical and ignorant of the way you have acted as CEO.
[After facing chapter boycotts EWB’s “solution” was to attempt to force the chapter presidents to sign a MOU/Code of Conduct, and has been using other intimidation tactics like contacting their deans, and threatening student boycotters with legal action.]
I have spent almost 5 years within various roles in EWB and that time is now ending. I have submitted my letter of resignation [Dear EWB UManitoba Chapter] to my chapter executives and I encourage you and all other staff, chapter presidents and co-presidents to read it. I can no longer pretend as though nothing is wrong and recruit new members into an organization that I know firsthand is deeply flawed, starting with your leadership as CEO. You told me in Ottawa that it was “unfortunate” that I draw such a line in the sand because “we are supposed to be a family”. If this is the type of community or family that you want to cultivate, by silencing dissenters, encouraging them to resign if they disagree with changes made, threatening legal actions if chapters continuing using the EWB brand while boycotting, then that is a community I am more than ready to leave, but not without making it well known to both my fellow presidents and friends how I feel about all of this. This is what I think a Systems Change Leader would do.
In my eyes, the people actually advocating for systems change have been those dissenting voices. The folks from McGill, Concordia, Queens, Alberta, ETS, etc. who have challenged your status quo. At least 6 current and 15 former (from the past 2 years) Presidents or Co-Presidents signed a letter demanding substantial change. 80 people have signed on to support the website http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/support-us/ to support the efforts of these folks in the attempt to force change upon this organization, all of us will recognize names on this webpage. 8 out of the 13 Board members resigned en masse in response to the boycott movement beginning. Your staff have attempted to convince me that we shouldn’t speculate that this had anything to do with the boycott – that is bullshit and I completely reject that characterization. We aren’t stupid, we are students. EWB has taught us to think about systemic change as not only necessary, but inevitable. I appreciate this knowledge but will now use it to end the toxic environment you have created within this organization.
Boris, you must resign. This is the only way to help EWB survive as an organization. You could have avoided all this dissent by admitting your faults and role within the botched investigation into various complaints made regarding sexual violence within this organization. You may not have had to resign at the beginning, but now you must. You’ve withheld information (reports), failed to address our questions (at the EWBetter), and generally neglected to show remorse or regret in how the organization has treated survivors of sexual violence in the past. I understand the Board of Directors has requested you remain silent about this issue – but when the first public address to the community I see from you since this whole thing began in January is an email about donating my Aeroplan Miles to EWB… I felt not only disgusted but betrayed. Is this really the most important thing you needed to speak to us about?
Don’t take the whole organization down with you. There is a movement mounting against patriarchal, sexist and misogynistic approaches to allegations of sexual violence. Oxfam recently went through a similar scandal, and EWB will too if you don’t take these dissenting voices seriously. Media sources have already been contacted, chapters have already committed to boycotting, presidents and co-presidents have resigned, staff have quit. This calls for a drastic response – not trying to convince us that everything is fine and we can move on to the future. You were involved when the mistakes were made, and now you’re trying to cover them up using your role as leader.
Please, Boris, do not continue in this manner.
With utmost sincerity,
Former President (2019), EWB UManitoba Chapter