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First British Columbia school bans non-disclosure agreements

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Susan MacRae, an English professor at Columbia College in Vancouver, has asked the school's board of trustees to consider a pledge prohibiting the use of confidentiality agreements in cases of sexual harassment and abuse, conduct or intimidation. The board approved the commitment in December.


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A small private college in Vancouver is became the first post-secondary institution in British Columbia to sign a pledge explicitly prohibiting the use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of abuse and harassment.

The Board of Trustees of Columbia College, a nonprofit institution that has provided college transfer courses to local and international students since 1936, voted in December to sign the 27 ;commitment Can't Buy My Silence. This commitment stipulates that the establishment will not use confidentiality agreements to resolve complaints of sexual harassment and abuse, misconduct or moral harassment.< /p>

The idea was brought to the board by Susan MacRae, professor of ;English at university and herself bound by a confidentiality agreement for 27 years. She said she was proud that members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal.

I really admire Columbia College for being proactive about student and employee safety, she says.

Columbia College Principal Matt Wadsworth said he wanted to thank Susan MacRae and the Can't Buy My Silence campaign He has brought attention to this issue and he hopes the school is just the first of many in British Columbia to sign the pledge.

As a community, the safety of students, staff and faculty is paramount, Wadsworth wrote in a statement .

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The use of confidentiality agreements in Bullying, sexual harassment and other disciplinary matters can compromise campus safety, undermine transparency and harm victims' healing process when the worst happens, he said.

Ms MacRae began volunteering for the Can't Buy My Silence campaign – a movement that aims to limit the use of confidentiality agreements – after a frustrating legal battle for the right to speak openly about her childhood sexual abuse.

In 2018, the British Columbian failed to cancel the confidentiality agreement she had signed in 1997 to settle her complaint against her father, even after his father's death, court documents show.

Susan MacRae is now advocating for laws banning the use of these documents in cases like hers, as part of the campaign founded by Julie Macfarlane, professor emerita of law at the University of Texas. Ontario, and Zelda Perkins, ex-assistant to fallen Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Columbia College's signing of the pledge is significant, MacRae said, because the institution welcomes a large proportion of international students.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In some ways, it is more important to have this commitment at Columbia College than at other universities, given that our students are very vulnerable because they are just learning Canadian law, she says.

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Columbia College is a college non-profit international post-secondary education located in Vancouver.

So far, the only other schools Canadian companies to sign the pledge were King's College University and Acadia University, both located in Nova Scotia.

MacRae says she has spoken to other major post-secondary institutions in British Columbia and is very optimistic that others will follow suit.

CBC reached out to some of the province's largest colleges and universities to see if they would consider making the same promise and some indicated that the door was open.

At Simon Fraser University (SFU), For example, a spokesperson mentions that the institution plans to review the Can't Buy My Silence commitment to see how it aligns with policies current. The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) responded that it was aware of the discussion.

Similarly, Vancouver Island University (VIU) is reviewing its sexual misconduct policy and a spokesperson said the issue of sexual misconduct agreements confidentiality could be part of it.

The University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia (UBC) did not sign the pledge, but their spokespersons say that under their current policies, victims of sexual misconduct are not invited to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Meanwhile, Ontario has already adopted a law prohibiting universities from using confidentiality agreements in cases of sexual misconduct.

In British Columbia, attempts have been made to introduce much broader legislation on the issue. Last year, Sonia Furstenau, leader of the BC Green Party, introduced a private member's bill to restrict the use of confidentiality agreements across the country. province, following similar legislation passed in Prince Edward Island.

B.C.'s bill died at the end of the spring session, but a spokesperson said the Green Party remained committed to supporting the campaign.

With information from Bethany Lindsay

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116