CAN’T BUY MY SILENCE CAMPAIGN UPDATE NOVEMBER 2022
Dear Friends, Supporters, Allies and Donors,
The campaign continues to make great strides and we have lots to update you on. As usual we are including a summary of developments in the UK and Canada. First, we have two news items pertinent to both UK and Canada.
The Universal Studios movie “She Said” tells the story of the two New York Times reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twomey, who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in 2017. Our very own Zelda is of course a big part of this story, as the first brave woman to break her NDA with Weinstein. Universal are kindly sponsoring two benefit preview screenings in Toronto and London, before the movie goes on general release. These are specifically to raise funds to grow the organisation which Julie and Zelda have self funded for the past year. The campaign is achieving so much and has grown at such a rate that it can no longer rely on the kindness of volunteers. We need funds to employ full time staff in the UK and Canada for administrative support, running the social media campaign, research and other tasks. We are also hoping to raise public awareness and build further support with these screenings.
International Roundtable for Parliamentarians
Senator Marilou McPhedran was the driving force behind an international roundtable held on Zoom in September to bring together parliamentarians working on legislation to ban the misuse of NDAs. Stacey Buchholzer, the campaign coordinator, went to work with Senator McPhedran’s team to create an event that brought together 29 lawmakers and policy advisors from the UK, Canada, the US and Ireland (our old friend and ally Senator Lynn Ruane from Ireland co-chaired the roundtable with Senator McPhedran). Over the course of 90 minutes, Julie and Zelda first introduced the campaign, and we then heard from a brilliant array of speakers about the way they had approached NDA legislation both substantively and strategically in their jurisdiction. A great deal was shared and learned, and many new alliances formed.
NEWS FROM CANADA
The news has continued to be dominated by the Hockey Canada scandal, with the entire Board eventually resigning under public and political pressure. This has given the campaign many media opportunities to emphasize the centrality of NDAs to the entire mess. A list of clips is here. We are aware that the federal government uses NDAs to silence its own employees and talks with the federal government are continuing about steps to protect federal employees and those in federally funded agencies from the use of NDAs.
Manitoba has become the second Canadian province to pass the “Model Bill” (based on the Irish and PEI Bill) through Second Reading. This means that it moves to the next stage which is Committee hearings. Anyone from inside or outside Manitoba can testify (with legal immunity) in-person or by Zoom at the Committee hearing on November 2nd – for more information on signing up to testify click here. Also, in Manitoba (i) the Manitoba Law Reform Commission has been instructed by the government to examine the issue (ii) the Manitoba Human Rights Commission is currently running a pilot project in which NDAs are not permitted in mediation processes prior to a hearing and (iii) the University of Manitoba Students Union has become a formal campaign ally and is advocating for a ban on the use of NDAs at the University for student complaints.
In Nova Scotia, the Bill introduced by the New Democratic Party (Claudia Chender, Leader and Suzy Hansen, Justice Critic) is waiting for a date for Second Reading. The Nova Scotia government is giving mixed messages – critical of Hockey Canada but saying that the NDA legislation “is not a priority”. If you live in Nova Scotia, we have a request that you write to your MP – here is a template you can use. Julie will be Halifax for an event on November 7th featuring both the NDP and the Liberal Justice Critics – who support the Bill – and the perspectives of local lawyers and sexual violence advocates. You can register here (the event will also be live streamed) https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cant-buy-my-silence-campaign-roundtable-on-non-disclosure-agreements-registration-440634939967)
Ontario has introduced the Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions and Students Act 2022 which includes a provision making secretly passing faculty or staff abusers to another institution – a common practice and the one that Julie discovered at the U of Windsor – illegal. This is hugely exciting because we have not yet worked at lobbying the Ontario government! CBMS is thrilled to support this new law and hopes to see other provincial governments taking the same step in coming months.
NEWS FROM THE UK
The Universities Pledge – backed by the Minister of Higher Education, first Michelle Donelan and now Andrea Jenkyns – has now been signed by 75 universities in England, 5 in Northern Ireland and more coming on board all the time. CBMS is in talks with the departments of Higher Education in Scotland and in Wales as several Welsh and Scottish Universities would like to join the pledge list. We have had a very positive response and are working to make the pledge inclusive to the devolved legislatures.
In the creative industry CBMS has been an active part in developing several initiatives; Notably the new Independent Standards Authority with #Times UP and Creative UK which will have powers of investigation to tackle bullying, harassment and the misuse of NDAs launching in 2024 . Additionally CBMS has been working with Spotlight and Equity UK who have developed and released new guidance on the use of NDAs to support those in the performing arts. The guidance tackles the complex issue of when NDAs are being pressed on performers for nefarious purposes outside the legitimate protection of creative material. The guidance states that “Equity has deep concerns about the damaging impact of NDAs on our fight to eradicate harassment and abuse from the audio-visual industry; and commits to combatting agreements and practices which serve to isolate and gag Performers.”
CBMS is part of an alliance of more than 20 trade unions, charities and women’s rights organisations – aptly named the “This is Not Working Alliance” – pressing for a preventative, standalone duty for employers to take steps to address sexual harassment. This would mean that employers have a legal duty to ensure that complaints can be brought forward effectively. The private members Bill brought by Wera Hobhouse passed Second Reading in September. The Bill now moves to Committee, where there is a plan to include a probing amendment for NDAs. We are working alongside Nikki Pound, Trade Union Congress Equality and Strategy Officer and Claire Laycock, who bravely broke her NDA to draw attention to their use by trade unions and as a result scored a huge win when an injunction to stop her speaking was refused by the High Court.
CBMS works alongside whistleblowing organizations in both the UK and Canada, with whom we have many shared aims. We are excited to be working with UK PROTECT to develop a video for our website and theirs which explains how the right for employees to make” protected disclosures” (for example, speaking up to report abuse, harassment or fraud) cannot be prevented by signing an NDA. We hope this will help to educate employees about their rights under whistleblowing laws and remove any misunderstanding that these can be “trumped” by an NDA. Watch out for the video shortly!