Industry planning ‘zero-tolerance’ policies for harassment

Groups from entertainment and advertising will enact hard rules and consequences.

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

Sixteen organizations, including ACTRA, the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA), and multiple groups from the entertainment and production industries, have committed to enacting an industry-wide code of conduct that lays out definitions of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, enforcement guidelines and consequences for members found in violation.

In the wake of the hundreds of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations against dozens of members of the wider screen industry internationally, leaders from the Canadian unions and guilds gathered Nov. 23 to collaborate on an industry-wide response.

The meeting followed a similar one convened by the ICA late last week focused on marketing-related businesses.

During Thursday’s ACTRA meeting, organizations agreed to create more effective reporting mechanisms and support systems to ensure individuals can come forward without fear of retribution or judgement. In addition, they committed to ensuring more effective enforcement of existing industry policies, as well as to launching a multi-level education and training campaign to ensure safe workplaces. Meeting participants also created working groups to get to begin tackling the objectives they laid out.

Ron Lund, president and CEO of the ACA, said “the pan-industry participants are truly galvanized to eliminate sexual harassment. This is significant, given the broad mandates and representation of the stakeholders that were around the table. We look forward to the next steps as the industry further crystallizes its response to this important issue.”

“It was an unprecedented meeting in terms of the wide range of industry partners who came around that table,” David Sparrow, president of ACTRA National, told Playback Daily.

“We’re looking to have an industry-wide statement that, regardless of where this behaviour is happening, it shouldn’t be happening. We want zero-tolerance for harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, abuse and violence,” he said. “The real test will be six months from now, if something were to happen, how is the industry going to respond?”

While no timelines were set, Sparrow said all of the organizations are getting to work on these issues now and are committed to getting it right.

He noted that the biggest challenge facing the industry is the pervasive fear of retaliation that has “paralyzed” many of its members from coming forward to report their experiences of harassment and abuse.

“People aren’t necessarily worried about losing the job they have today, they’re worried about whether they’ll ever get offered another job in this industry,” he said. “The question becomes how do we change the mechanisms by which people can report so that they feel more comfortable reporting and following through so that we take away that fear of retaliation.”

He added that the code of conduct will apply to industry members across Canada, but also foreign producers working in Canada.

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A version of this story previously appeared on Playback.