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'Irrefutable evidence': integrity commissioner finds Parole Board member sexually harassed 'several' employees

Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada
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There is "irrefutable evidence" a member of the Parole Board of Canada sexually harassed multiple employees, without adequate disciplinary action from management, according to a report by Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

Harriet Solloway’s recent report details the "serious negative impact" of the member’s misconduct, including the sexual harassment of "several" female employees, on multiple occasions, over an eight-year period.

Solloway’s report also states Parole Board of Canada (PBC) management "did not adequately respond to his misconduct" and "grossly mismanaged" the situation.

"The misconduct included lewd, sexually suggestive emails and phone calls, unwelcome, persistent flirting, unwanted and unwelcome personal invitations, and even unwanted physical contact including a kiss on the lips at a workplace holiday lunch," Solloway said in a video statement.

The board member in question — Mike Sanford — is a former inspector with the Ottawa Police Service. He was first appointed to the board in 2014.

Solloway’s statement also details the experience of one employee who "recalled that she was trembling with fear” after Sanford repeatedly engaged in harassing behaviour, and she was forced to hide in an office washroom to avoid him.

Repeated harassment by Sanford led to one of the four affected employees taking extended sick leave and another leaving her job entirely, according to the commissioner.

"The actions taken by PBC management failed to convey the seriousness of the matter, and actually fostered an environment that enabled the board member’s misconduct," Solloway said, adding failure to document two earlier incidents impacted how later harassment complaints were handled.

"PBC management also failed to convey the seriousness of the incidents to the board member, advising him that he should ‘refrain from being too friendly with the public servants’," Solloway said.

Solloway in her report makes three recommendations to PBC management concerning assessments of past workplace behaviour when considering prospective board members, establishing policies to manage and properly address harassment complaints, and conducting a management review of the PBC Ontario office in Kingston, in particular.

The commissioner states in the report she is "satisfied" with the response from PBC chairperson Jennifer Oades to her recommendations, and expects an update in six months on the status of them.

The PBC is an independent tribunal within the federal government’s public safety department, with a mandate to make conditional release and record suspension decisions, as well as clemency recommendations, for some offenders serving federal sentences.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, PBC spokesperson Marie-Lynne Robineau said while the board cannot comment on specific labour relations cases, the "senior leadership team is committed to ensuring compliance with these recommendations and will undertake necessary follow-up action."

"The PBC does not tolerate inappropriate conduct on the part of its board members or employees and takes any complaints that it receives seriously," Robineau also wrote.

Also in an email to CTVNews.ca, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc wrote that the federal government expects all government departments to “foster safe and respectful workspaces.”

“The situation that was outlined in the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s report is unacceptable,” Jean-Sébastien Comeau wrote. “The Parole Board of Canada has accepted all of the recommendations formulated by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, and I have directed my officials to work with the executive team at the Parole Board of Canada to ensure the recommendations are fully implemented.”

CTVNews.ca has made efforts to request a comment from Sanford, but has not been able to reach him.

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