Below is an August 12, 2020 letter from Celeste Coomber. This was posted on the Green Party of Canada facebook page and Celeste’s personal page. Elizabeth May wrote to her to have it removed. May wrote in emails to Celeste on August 12, offering to break confidentiality she had promised victims who participated in her ‘investigation’: “I am sorry that you have been misinformed. I am sorry you think the party is covering anything up… I am open to providing information, but it is quite confidential and email is not appropriate… Why don’t you just wait and see before making any more assumptions. OK?”
To the Green Party of Canada,
I am decidedly…not impressed with your latest blunder.
You know, when we elect political parties into power, we do at least hope that they will represent everything we want and everything we strive for. When I consider who I am going to vote for in an election, I think about things like social justice, equality, a better quality of life, not having to worry about vast tracts of pollution across our environment, or about being discriminated against or harassed for being a young woman in a field dominated by men. That last one is particularly important, considering my field of study.
I have been studying anthropology since I was twenty-one years old, and in that time, I have learned a great many things about humans. This includes the fact that anthropology, like engineering, is still very much a male-dominated discipline. Entrenched old ideas and male behaviours have spawned horror stories of sexual harassment and assault in the field, especially concerning male supervisors and their female graduate students over whom they hold authority as well as the reins to their future careers. I have had professors describe to me what can happen to a female anthropologist when it is a man who controls her future ability to publish research. It is HORRIFYING. But women are told to just bite their tongue, otherwise their careers will be dead in the water, killed by the very men who assaulted them. Or worse, the ones who helped cover it up.
Tell me, should I want that sort of person in any position of power? Should I want a man who is complicit in this mass discrimination of and assault against women? Why has this suddenly become an issue of “race” when it is an issue of sexual violence, as well as moral and political corruption? Because the truth is that the people who cover it up, who seek to protect those who cover it up, they prove that they are just as bad as the rapists. Yes, I said it! Rapists! Because that’s what we as young women have to deal with. I get whistles and comments in the street because I am a busty young woman. Does what I wear matter? NOPE! I can be wearing three layers and STILL get comments from random men riding by on bicycles. I am stuck in a culture of misogyny, and now I have an MP that SUPPORTS this?
Oh yes, I have been made aware of the letter you three wrote to the council, Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin, and Elizabeth May. I SAW how you turned an issue of gender and sexuality into an issue of “race.” I wonder, would you still feel the same if it was you or your daughter or sister or mother who had to endure unwanted comments about their body? Would you still feel the same if you faced the threat of being sexually assaulted, being raped, and then being told to shut up about it by someone with more power than you because they could end your career permanently if you don’t do exactly what they say? I think there is a legal term for that…oh right, COERCION. You have recently hired an Executive Director complicit in COERCION regarding sexual assault, and somehow you think that is okay? So much for morals and justice, there, huh?
Do you think that this is the sort of abhorrent behaviour that we want to SEE in a political party? The last time I got this worked up about rape cases and coercion was when I was researching the #MeToo movement and the Brett Kavanaugh case for one of my class projects on Rape Culture. SILENCE. CONSENT. POWER[i]. Those were the keywords that I painted on our presentation in paint as red as blood. The same colour as the blood of the VICTIMS of sexual assault and RAPE in the workplace.
How can you say “We do not discount the experience of women who have been abused. We all want to support Chelsey Rhodes on her path to justice and her experience with Engineers Without Borders”[ii] and then turn around and PROTECT the man who is COMPLICIT in the coverups? Have you learned NOTHING from what has happened to Engineers Without Borders? Total System Failure is an apt name, though the failure is far more widespread. It is a disease!
With this letter I stand in solidarity with all of the men and women who have been assaulted, raped, and attacked for standing up for those who seek to help the ones that those in power have taken advantage of. With Claxton, with Lakhani, with Gokool.[iii] I WILL NOT BE SILENT.
It is explicitly stated in a presentation prepared by members of the Green Party that Prateek was the one who defamed Chelsey Rhodes for stepping forward to tell her story concerning this systemic coverup of sexual abuse within Engineers Without Borders[iv]. And this occurred AFTER it was claimed that an investigation occurred, an investigation into Chelsey’s allegations where Chelsey herself was not interviewed, no report was provided, and no conclusions were given other than “no harassment occurred.”[v] Smells like a coverup to me, and not even a good one. I bet even a five-year-old could figure out that there was no investigation and it was all just swept under the rug. AS USUAL.
It is you and people like you who stand opposed to victims by supporting their oppressors, even rewarding their foul behaviour with positions of power for the sake of “diversity.” If you want new blood and to survive, look to the young, appeal to us, make us want to support you. Do not support the sorts of people who take advantage of others just because they can. This is not a matter of “race” it is a matter of a miscarriage of justice.
And I name you COMPLICIT. Actions speak louder than words when you are a public official. Your words mean nothing if you turn around and do the opposite. The young people will remember, for we are not as dumb as you seem to think. I choose to take my words and make them in themselves an action. I am calling you out here and now because it is the RIGHT thing to do. You need to be held accountable for your bad decisions. I have chosen my side. And now I know that I will certainly not be voting for Paul Manly and the Green Party in the next election cycle because I know that the party as it stands cannot represent and protect me as a Canadian.
You, on the other hand, MPs and patriarchal conservative members of the Council, you will burn your party to the ground with this stance you’ve taken, and the other parties will gather to roast hotdogs and marshmallows over the flames. It’s sink or swim, but you’ve chosen to jump into a volcano.
Enjoy, I look forward to the fireworks.
Celeste Camilla Coomber
Age 26, Resident of Nanaimo, British Columbia
[i] “Presentation on Rape Culture.” Celeste Coomber et. al. April 2019.
[ii] “Letter from Three MPs to the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada.” Elizabeth May, Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin. August 2020.
[iii] “What do we do when Humanitarians are the Disaster?” Chelsey Rhodes. Briar Patch Magazine. July 2 2020.
[iv] “Laying the Foundation of a Culture of Belonging through Safety and Trust.” Bonnie North et. al. August 2020. Page 12.
[v] Our Story. http://www.totalsystemfailure.