|Chelsey and Alex met with the EWB Board twice in 2019, in April and July, the latter time with a lawyer present. We listed many incidents of harassment, assault, rape, and discriminatory behaviour at the organization stretching back a decade. We have repeatedly pushed for an independent inquiry including reparations to those affected, to no avail. Following Chelsey’s public disclosures in January 2019, Aakhil also spoke out publicly (in June 2019) about facing sexual violence and retaliation at EWB, and has been disbelieved and ignored. See here, and here.
By now it seems apparent that the EWB leadership will continue to refuse to address this long-standing pattern of abuse at the organization, and will continue to cover it up. This is upsetting in itself, but also suggests there is an ongoing risk of harm to staff, volunteers, and ‘recipients’ of EWB’s work.
Without a functioning or responsive Board or executive team at EWB, and with no regulatory body or Ombuds office for the aid sector, we have reached the unfortunate conclusion that there is no way forward except for legal action. We also wanted to make sure that people feel some measure of safety and protection in reporting their experiences, as we are aware of fears due to EWB’s pattern of retaliation towards whistleblowers (and other societal pressures making it difficult for people to come forward or speak publicly).
We hope that having some legal support will help people to feel more comfortable pushing for justice. We have discussed the possibilities of individual legal challenges, a group lawsuit, or a class action. However, more information is required on specific incidents, when they occurred, and who was affected.
Marcus McCann (contact info below) has agreed to provide legal advice, and he is experienced with human rights and employment law as well as working with nonprofits. He is also familiar with the general issues and concerns. He has agreed to provide free phone consultations to any current or ex-EWB staff or volunteers (this includes staff/residents in other countries, so please pass this onto anyone you think this might apply to). Speaking with him will help clarify the best strategy going forward; can help you understand how your experience may have constituted a breach of the human rights code, employment law, etc.; and may help you gain clarity on whether you would like to pursue legal action for what happened to you.
These consultations will be confidential between you and Marcus McCann and we will not have access to any information shared or informed if any conversations took place. Speaking with him to review your story does not mean you have to move forward with anything; it’s 100% your decision.
If you would like to reach out to us as well, please feel free. It would be good to strategize together and support each other. Even if you can’t personally be part of a legal challenge, we can still work together on a broader project of justice. You can contact us at this email or through our anonymous form on our website. Please continue to send in reports of incidents or concerns to this email or form as well.
A few notes:
- If you are not sure if your experience was “that bad” (it is common to underplay/ underestimate the seriousness of traumatic incidents), or unsure if it rose to the level of discrimination, harassment or assault, this is a good time to explore that with a legal professional. Marcus can help navigate that and provide suggestions.
- If you experienced or witnessed a violent incident, especially if that incident included sexual harassment or sexual violence, this is also potentially actionable even if the incident happened more than 2 years ago. There is no statute of limitations on sexual violence cases in Ontario (and the definition is quite broad).
- Marcus has already spoken to some of us about our individual cases, and we can assure you of his professionalism and sensitivity. If you would prefer to speak to a woman, this is available and his colleague will be assisting with these cases.
- Any incidents occurring after Chelsey raised these issues to EWB in 2012/2013 (and was pressured into a NDA) are particularly important to bring forward, as EWB should have dealt with them appropriately when notified.
Email Marcus McCann to set up a phone consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences with us, and it has taken a lot of work behind the scenes to get to this point. We hope that this provides an opportunity for people to pursue justice and accountability, and to help bring resolution to a situation that has hurt so many people.
Total System Failure team