Open Letter: “As the one at fault, EWB does not get to decide when it’s over.”


*This letter was submitted by Todd Phillips, a former EWB member and chapter president. We concur with Todd in all that he writes, and especially when he states, “I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth.”


November 12th, 2020

To the members and leadership of EWB, past and present,

I’m calling on the leadership at EWB to answer for their and the organization’s behavior in regard to the multiple counts of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying that have occurred. The sheer number of complaints is worrying, but the only point more worrying seems to be EWB’s response, in the past and as well as now. They have, and continue to, ignore the wellbeing of the people involved. They have lied and covered up what has actually happened.

Before I go any further, I would like to state that I am surely guilty of some inappropriate behavior. I do not remember any specific instances, but I am open to being called out on these or any other behaviors that caused people discomfort or unease. I will make amends to the best of my ability. I am striving to improve and educate myself every day on topics such as this, and am hoping I will be better in the future. I do not expect any person or organization to be perfect, but I expect them to care. I expect them to make things right to the best of their ability.

The only public response I’m aware of, EWB’s main response to Chelsey in August 2019, is misleading at best, but most likely, it is just full of false statements. It is empty of truth and heart. Chelsey has repeatedly asked for it to be retracted, and regardless of EWB’s intentions (which are also questionable), it is punishment for speaking out, and serves as a warning to others. This is in addition to re-traumatizing Chelsey, and attacking her character.

I don’t want to dwell on too many specific points. The overall meaning can be lost if the argument becomes about specific points and semantics, but I feel I need to give some examples to demonstrate what I’ve said. To begin, Chelsey has flatly denied anything was consensual, let alone being “emphatic that it was consensual” as stated in the response. Abuse cannot be consensual.

As well, it seems to me that all decisions taken were from a purely legal standpoint, and the person was forgotten. In EWB’s statement, their treatment of Chelsey contradicts itself in the same paragraph. EWB states that “we are confident that we acted appropriately and addressed all concerns that she raised in mediation. That said, we regret that she was not offered more acknowledgement and support at the time.” How can you say you acted appropriately and then immediately say you should have given more support? In my opinion, the only way this makes sense is if ‘appropriately’ means ‘legally’.

As well, I don’t have faith that the new policies are enough when they are so EWB-centric, instead of person-centered: “We hope that recent dialogue can provide closure and allow us all to focus on the future.” Unfortunately, as the one at fault, EWB does not get to decide when it’s over. Any suggestion otherwise takes more power away from the victim. Victims decide when the dialogue, when the healing, when the everything is over, not the perpetrators.

I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth, to make the situation right as much as possible for the victims, and to take real action to minimize the chances of something like this happening again, and if it does, ensuring that it will be dealt with appropriately. Person-centered, victim-centered appropriately, not EWB’s current definition of the word.

I stand with Aakhil. I stand with Chelsey. I stand with all victims. I encourage all others, but especially chapters, alumni and leadership, to do the same.

Todd Phillips
Former EWB Member & Chapter President

“Don’t Take the Whole Organization Down With You”: (Former) Chapter President Calls on Boris Martin to Resign

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.]

*See full text of EWB’s MOU/Code of Conduct for Chapter Presidents

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 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,

Mathew Scammell

Former President (2019), EWB UManitoba Chapter

Open Letter to Rebecca Kresta & EWB Board

Dear Rebecca and the EWB Board,

EWB is an organization that claims to strive to learn from their mistakes. So I have to ask, what mistakes are you learning from in your continued response to Chelsey’s activism? How exactly have you learned from the #metoo and #aidtoo movements when you continue to replicate the victim blaming, white supremacist, patriarchal narratives that underlie the whole sector in which you claim to operate differently? While asserting EWB’s ‘fail forward’ rhetoric has shielded the organization from scrutiny for years, we are calling you out on EWB’s inability to actually abide by this purported value. Your timeline is a disgusting misrepresentation of facts, but one thing it illustrates quite well is that, while the organization was made aware of Chelsey’s sexual abuse in 2013, it wasn’t until January 2019 (as you claim) that the organization made any attempt to rectify the organizational power dynamics that caused this abuse. The organization was made aware of my own sexual assault in 2014 and between 2013 and 2016, there were at least 6 other volunteers who reported sexualized violence to EWB through the poorly managed Health and Wellness ‘Pulse Check’. I was personally present in a conversation with you Rebecca, as well as 2 members of the board, 3 staff, and many members in which several volunteers came forward with their stories of sexual abuse that point to grievous negligence on EWB’s part in protecting its volunteers. Many of us came forward with our experiences and offered our expertise, advice, and support in effecting change within the organization. I was placated with unfulfilled promises and excuses about staff turnover in the 3 years that I advocated for change within EWB. What you are labeling ‘learning from mistakes’ is easily exposed as an attempt to repair the reputational damage that was caused when, in an effort to effect systemic change after many years of many folks working within EWB to no avail, Chelsey made her story public.

You should not be confident that you have made every effort to right the harms caused by this organization. You should not regret that individual concerns were not acknowledged or addressed (as EWB has still failed to acknowledge my own assault that you Rebecca, as my friend, have known about since it happened). As we know, laws are crafted to protect institutions, and while you claim that legally your duty of care in Chelsey’s case may have been met, the fact that EWB knew about and failed to respond to Chelsey’s situation in 2013 and my subsequent assault in 2014 constitutes gross negligence and is legally actionable.

If your desire to move forward ethically with this organization was genuine then we would see an acknowledgement of harm that includes the ways in which the organization plans to make reparations. Your response up to this point have not been apologies but a series of lies, excuses, and a misplacement of blame on the victims of this harm.

So tell me Rebecca, what exactly have you and EWB learned?



Open Letter re: Public Statement

This is an open letter by Johnny in response to EWB’s public statement released on August 8, 2019. 

EWB’s Board claims to be survivor oriented and yet they do not even care to secure consent from the concerned person to release a biased and factually inaccurate statement. This statement is a one-sided attempt to deflect responsibility that does not address many questions that have been raised both by the complainant and the community at-large.

The number of things that are untrue are too numerous to address individually but here are a few:

It is important to note that as far as it is known, currently, all reports of investigations from this case and others are still being withheld, including from as far back as 2013 and as recently as 2019; which is in essence the source of the issues where there is no transparency or possibility of accountability to complainants.

The statement claims there was an “in-depth” investigation but the complainant was never even questioned during that process, they requested questions in advance and as a result were subsequently ignored in the process; the Board is fully aware of this, is this something that can really be called ”in-depth”.

It is inaccurate to say that a review was made with input from Chelsey Rhodes, as the expert hired refused to interview her about her case during the only face to face meeting they had. The Board has simply refused reconsidering the past investigation in light of the discrepancies that were pointed to by herself. The only opinion considered was not the complainant but the of “legal experts”. And opinion here is an important point, these so called legal experts never were in communication with the complainant so that the issues raised could be accounted for; this is by design not an impartial review.

The Board’s confidence that the organization has acted appropriately in light of these facts neither stands nor is substantiated in any definite manner.

The Board claims to “acknowledge Chelsey’s truth” yet, members of the management and Board refused on multiple occasions answering a question as simple “Do you believe Chelsey was harassed”. Since the report did not find this, because it was purportedly biased, and this bias cannot be contested as the report remains withheld. What is the meaning of saying that truth is being acknowledged when investigation reports are being withheld?

This document states that “The Board of EWB wants every member of our community to continue to do rewarding, productive and meaningful work in a safe, secure and respectful environment” and that you “regret any instance in which individual concerns were not fully acknowledged or addressed”. You were made aware that there were allegations against a person still employed by EWB and that they should be relived of the functions pending investigation; you never reached, to this day, to the person making those allegations; those were allegations of sexual assault. How can you claim the above statement has any truth?

To the light of the information the Board brings, no argument is made that could dispel doubts that EWB took advantage of the complainants precarious financial position to force a settlement whereby the complainant accepted only part of the issues being resolved and certainly not in full satisfaction; how can the Board continue to make such claims of resolution in light of the events and contestations of this year. Furthermore, it is generally accepted that settlements made under financial duress are null and void. The Board cannot continue to rely on the existence a mediated agreement as a way to deflect responsibility without answering these questions. Naturally, EWB’s Board also withholds these legal opinions.

Amongst statement that are misleading, the idea that the JF program was suspended doesn’t seem an accurate depiction of events, in fact, though a motion barring deployment of junior fellows (JFs) may have been passed by the board, JFs were never made aware that the expert who was hired recommended to reduce or suspend the JF program. In other words, there was no informed consent from JFs as this information was withheld from them. It certainly does not seem to have been a recommendation that the issues were to be fixed in a very short timeline of under two weeks and still proceed with deployment of JFs. Naturally it is not possible to know if the corrections brought about would satisfy or solve the issues raised as the full report is also being withheld.

On every point raised, there is no transparency from the Board to the members in general. This general situation is and continues to be unacceptable. I am confident that the current Board does not reflect the values and will of the membership in general and should be removed.

– Johnny

Open Letter from Concordia University Chapter

To Engineers Without Borders Canada:

We are the Concordia chapter. We are a chapter made up of extraordinary leaders and change-makers. We have a strong set of infallible values.

For this reason, we are boycotting EWB, alongside the amazing leaders at McGill and Alberta.

We can no longer support you, when you have failed to support the victims of your organization.

You have not taken sexual harassment within the organization lightly: in fact, you worked hard to silence victims and push them out of the organization for calling out your wrong-doings. Your non-transparent ways have caused major trauma within your community as well.

We ask you to immediately start mending your mistakes by:

1. Banning the use of NDAs within EWB on harassment and discrimination victims
2. Open an independent investigation on all harassment cases, starting with the one that occurred in Malawi (2011)
3. Publicly apologize for failing to properly deal with such cases
4. Immediately establish a counselling fund which women and survivors on staff and membership have access to.

We are ashamed to be associated with your lies and your hypocrisy.
We are Concordia, students with values who stand with survivors, and who no longer stand with you.

Engineers Without Borders Concordia

Dilara Omeroglu President
Jose Rondon Zambrano Vice-President
Himanshu Sharma VP Global Engineering
Kadir Deniz VP Finance
Evis Zeka Executive Member

[Link to open letter]

Open Letter from University of Alberta Chapter

To the Engineers Without Borders Canada Board of Directors:

Due to the continued increasingly upsetting news in regard to EWB Canada’s continuous methods of handling harassment cases, including sexual violence cases within the organization, the UofA Chapter has decided to officially boycott the Day of Action as a part of the Spring Leadership Retreat (SLR) being held this weekend (May 4th-6th, 2019) in Ottawa to refrain from participating in the upcoming advocacy campaign, in solidarity with the McGill Chapter.

Based on our knowledge of EWB is that the NGO has a mission to create systems change in society. We (Tamanna – President & Bridgitt – Riding Captain & Advocacy Lead) have found our voices with the involvement of this organization and have felt empowered to do good, to create radical impact and have our voices heard. We have attended the first two days of the SLR and are not impressed with the leadership of National Office in handling the tension and questions of the community members in regard to how EWB is handling the accusations of sexual violence against the organization. We echo the sentiments of the McGill chapter as outlined by their letter. “However, in relation to your misogynistic response to those in your organization who have had traumatic experiences tied to sexual violence and discrimination and have subsequently sought justice (but instead experienced backlash), we could not feel more disappointed and betrayed by you. What we have learned from EWB is that we cannot stand idly by when injustices are taking place, and that is the very attitude we are enacting in response to this case.” (McGill’s letter, May 4th, 2019).

It is in our due diligence to let everyone know what happened at the EWBetter breakout session held on May 5, 2019. The meeting was one of the most tense and uncomfortable situations that we have been in. The leadership continued to use PR techniques of active listening to vehemently “waste” the conversation time, taking away from the purpose of the session. All the community members asked for was transparency and acknowledgment of the harassment cases that EWB has been involved with; we did not receive any of that from National Office. As they continue to disregard us, we will disregard them.

We will not support the organization but instead focus on the success of our chapter until the four demands that have been outlined by the McGill Chapter as follows have been met.

1) Ban Non-Disclosure Agreements within EWB in relation to sexual harassment or discrimination

2) Open an independent investigation on the harassment case which occurred in Malawi in 2011, and any other cases, including:
a) The role of the Board of Directors in dealing with this situation
b) The historical and recent role of EWB employees in regards to this situation
c) The role of CEO, Boris Martin, within this situation

3) Publicly apologize on behalf on the entire organization for the complete failure in dealing with situations of sexual harassment and discrimination

4) Immediately establish a counseling fund which women and survivors on staff have access to
These sentiments are ours (Bridgitt & Tamanna) based on the experiences that we have had at SRL and will be discussing with our chapter before we release another statement.


Tamanna Haque & Bridgitt Hornibrook
President, & Riding Captain, Engineers Without Borders – University of Alberta Chapter

Open Letter from McGill University Chapter

[Originally posted on McGill EWB Chapter Facebook page, reposted with permission.]


To the Engineers Without Borders Canada Board of Directors:

Due to a series of upsetting news in relation to EWB Canada’s perpetual methods of handling sexual assault and harassment cases within your organization, the McGill Chapter has decided to boycott the Spring Leadership Retreat being held this weekend (May 4th-6th, 2019) in Ottawa, to cancel sending any funds to National Office, and to refrain from participating in the upcoming advocacy campaign.

Our understanding of EWB has always been that it is an NGO that is on a mission to make systematic change in our society. Both of us (Juliette and Aspen, Co-Presidents of the McGill Chapter) feel like we have found our voices and portions of our identities through EWB. Your organization has continually made us feel empowered to impact radical change. However, in relation to your misogynistic response to those in your organization who have had traumatic experiences tied to sexual violence and discrimination and have subsequently sought justice (but instead experienced backlash), we could not feel more disappointed and betrayed by you. What we have learned from EWB is that we cannot stand idly by when injustices are taking place, and that is the very attitude we are enacting in response to this case.

Over the past few months, we have been made aware that a survivor has been attempting to affect systemic change within EWB for over eight years after she faced abuse by her supervisor and bullying by the EWB leadership during her work in Malawi. Throughout the entirety of this instance, how EWB has and continues to handle it is a complete failure. Your first instinct was contradictory to the very nature of our organization’s supposed transparency, as you have carefully covered everything up using a non-disclosure agreement and keeping all information away from chapter members and replacing it with narratives that suited your own purposes. One of the many ways in which you have slandered the individual primarily affected by this situation is by framing them as a serial litigator and a “problem.”

The failure does not end there. Indeed, we have more recently been made aware that one of your employees has faced sexual violence accusations that remain unaddressed and have not been investigated. Other reports of harassment and bullying have not been investigated, and the people making these reports have been silenced, ignored, or pushed out of the organization. This is completely unacceptable, and frankly, illegal.
Beyond this, your organization and its Board of Directors, both of which claim to be open-minded and prepared to impact change, made their overarching opinions on this situation very clear when they compared it to “armpit hair” during a recent meeting — stating that “it can be both acceptable and unacceptable, so whether or not you deal with it is not an issue.” These sentiments are on record.
EWB McGill will vehemently refuse to tolerate such failure. We continue to wholeheartedly believe in the work we signed up to do when we became co-presidents. However, we refuse to stay silent and to compromise in order to support the good do elsewhere. Consequently, from this point and on an indefinitely basis going forward, we will stay committed to the forms of resistance we stated at the beginning of this letter, and any others we feel are necessary. We will formulate our own advocacy campaign which will focus on the empowerment of women and survivors. We have four simple demands. Only when you meet these demands will our resistance end:

  1. Ban Non-Disclosure Agreements within EWB in relation to sexual harassment or discrimination
  2. Open an independent investigation on the harassment case which occurred in Malawi in 2011, and any other cases, including: a) The role of the Board of Directors in dealing with this situation b) The historical and recent role of EWB employees in regards to this situation c) The role of CEO, Boris Martin, within this situation
  3. Publicly apologize on behalf on the entire organization for the complete failure in dealing with situations of sexual harassment and discrimination
  4. Immediately establish a counseling fund which women and survivors on staff have access to

Until you meet all four of these demands, the McGill Chapter will not support your organization in any way, and rather focus on the success of our individual chapter.


Juliette Escande and Aspen Murray
Co-Presidents, Engineers Without Borders – McGill University Chapter

Johnny’s letter to Boris Martin, CEO of EWB Canada

March 23

An open letter to Boris Martin, CEO, Engineers Without Borders Canada

Boris Martin, as you might know, Chelsey Rhodes, a former Fellow with Engineers Without Borders Canada in Malawi between 2011 and 2012, has reported serious concerns about her experience with EWB and alleged that she experienced and witnessed harassment from EWB employees, events of verbal but also sexual nature. She also reported she was retaliated against for reporting racism in the organization.

An initial investigation was completed several years ago, by a person with long term ties to the management which concluded they found no evidence of harassment, without the report or findings ever being released to her or her questions as to why the people she reported were not all investigated.

In fact she has implicated you as being a perpetrator in an event of retaliation. She has continuously pointed to the fact that she had not been questioned during this investigation. After she continued to manifest her concerns EWB decided to settle the matter under a non disclosure agreement that prevented her from further talking about her experience.

Events such as these, in order to restore confidence, need not only be settled in a manner that is legal, but most importantly in a manner that appears to be just in the opinion of the whole community.

Having brought the issue to him, the Chair of the Board of directors, Cameron Charlebois, responsible for handling the response to this situation, said to me on multiple occasions that he was completely open to an investigation, but he also insisted that it was impossible to investigate an event that had occurred seven years ago and that there was nothing that could be investigated at all. He seemed to imply that there should be a detailed plan for investigating these claims before an investigation was to be considered.

If every survivor had to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that what they experienced was indeed harassment and that they had to present the detailed manner in which their case would have to be investigated before discussions of an investigation happened, there would be scant prospects for justice. There isn’t a double standard by which some survivors are to be believed and others subjected to defamation and intense scrutiny grounded in skepticism.

Therefore I call for you to do the right thing and concede that this matter be investigated by an independent third party with expertise and a proven track record in dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. These issues are current, not historical, as multiple people have come forward with their stories. The issues seem systemic and organizational and require proper attention.

Also, the idea that such an investigator would not be a male seems fitting and excellent as persons who preponderantly experience these issues are more likely to have a deeper understanding of them, furthermore this provides a measure of safety for any complainant to come forward as opposed to dealing exclusively with males.

I stand by Chelsey Rhodes and support her and the claims she makes.


March 25

Boris Martin, I’ve sent you an open letter about the mishandling of the harassment case of Chelsey Rhodes and you have neither reached out to me nor signified your intent to do so. Since then I found that your Director of Community, Prateek Suman Awasthi, part of the Senior management of Engineers Without Borders Canada has told me numerous lies about Chelsey, to which he later admitted having no basis but hearsay, he lied in saying she had been reached to by Cameron and Coleen and that she refused to speak to them and also lied in saying that Chelsey had filed lawsuits (plural) against EWB. The context of these statements was when I was asking why EWB was not proceeding with an independent investigation from a qualified external person with no ties to the board or management. This lie was damaging to the character of Chelsey and exemplified a bad faith from her part that was nonexistent. This behaviour is unacceptable; EWB cannot lie about the actions of survivors seeking justice in an effort to deflect accountability. Boris, you are ultimately responsible for the actions of your executive. I know I am you asking tough questions, but this is a failure and admitting failure is a necessary part of any process. I demand you publicly apologize to Chelsey for this spreading of false rumours about her by EWB and also contact me as soon as possible so that we may work together in correcting the handling of this situation.



– Johnny Youness