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Ashley Csanady: Sorry, CBC, apologies are not enough for the institutional neglect that let Ghomeshi rise

National Post logo National Post 2016-05-11 Ashley Csanady
GhomeshiLKP_002.JPG: Laura Pedersen / National Post © Laura Pedersen / National Post Laura Pedersen / National Post GhomeshiLKP_007.JPG: Laura Pedersen / National Post © Laura Pedersen / National Post Laura Pedersen / National Post

It’s been a long 18 months, give or take, since the news of the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi first rolled across our nation’s smartphones.

The news trickled out over Twitter, then a Facebook post from the man himself sought — unsuccessfully — to reclaim that narrative. I watched it unravel from a Chicago hotel room. By the time I was back on home soil, Ghomeshi’s crisis management firm had dumped him and the allegations were piling up.

In the background, there were whispers of what the CBC did and didn’t do, a hot take or three. The broadcaster called in an external investigator, whose findings prompted an apology to the public whose trust it had broken. A slew of recommendations, from mandatory training to an anonymous tip line, have been or are in progress of being implemented.

And yet, I couldn’t help but wonder once again Wednesday how the so-called Mother Corp let this happen. For three years let this happen, all for what, a “rising star” with a saccharine-sweet voice and faux feminism?

Ghomeshi apologized Wednesday for his “behaviour towards (Kathryn Borel) in the workplace.”

In exchange, the last of the charges against him were dropped and he signed an order to maintain the peace, whatever that means.

But Borel was spared the ordeal-by-fire that is sexual assault trials; she got a chance to detail, on the record and under her own name after a publication ban was lifted, what she suffered at Ghomeshi’s hands and under the CBC’s unwatchful eye.

“Every day, over the course of a three-year-period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body,” Borel said on the steps leading up to Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse.

I couldn’t stop thinking: Where’s the CBC? Whose head is rolling?

Immediately after the remarks, the broadcaster issued a statement that begins, “What Ms. Borel experienced in our workplace should never have happened and we sincerely apologize for what occurred.”

Apologize to whom? You the viewer or the woman at the centre of it all?

To add insult to injury, the CBC censored their former employee’s damning words, ostensibly for legal reasons. (Since this piece first went live, the CBC has since posted Borel’s comments in full). Then, it sent a note to all staff on Wednesday afternoon that reiterated they “deeply regret that this kind of behaviour ever happened at our workplace.”

The toss-off apology preceded a call to rally the CBC staff because “it’s important to not lose sight of the progress we’ve made to help build a safer and more respectful workplace.”

“We hope that you feel we’re in a better place now and that CBC/Radio-Canada continues to be a great place to work.”

Does better late than never ever suffice?

What’s owed Borel is more than a vague statement, but a direct apology. Preferably on air and preferably straight from the top. Because what she described was a failing of the deepest kind at, in her words, a “national institution.”

She suffered “near-daily verbal assaults and emotional manipulations.”

Laura Pedersen / National Post

A rising star at the national broadcaster repeatedly harassed a female underling, but instead of protecting her, Borel described the CBC’s complicity.

“Up until recently, I didn’t even internalize that what he was doing to my body was sexual assault because, when I went to the CBC for help, what I received in return was a directive that yes, he could do this and yes, it was my job to let him,” she said.

It was her job to let him. Let that sink in, roll around in your head and make your stomach churn.

It only got worse for the CBC, as she continued: “The relentless message to me from my celebrity boss and the national institution he worked for were that his whims were more important than my humanity or my dignity.”

How did this happen, again and again, at an institution so notoriously liberal it’s lambasted by conservatives big and small-C? Some blame the institutional rot behind the recent spate of scandal on mismanagement, on funding concerns. Others an obsession with a number of rising stars, many of whom have now fallen fast and hard.

Two executives embroiled in the scandal are gone: Chris Boyce, who was head of radio and directly oversaw the entire Q team and Todd Spencer, who was director of the human resources department that Borel said ignored her complaints at least three times.

But CEO Hubert Lacroix and head of English programming Heather Conway both remain, amid their prostrating and apologies (Lacroix co-signed the aforementioned email along with Josée Girard, vice-president of people and culture). They may not have had personal knowledge of the Ghomeshi allegations prior to the façade failing, but as the cliché goes, does the buck not stop with them?

Maybe it’s on all of us too. “We the media” need a mea culpa moment. So many of us knew, or thought we knew, something was deeply wrong at Q

Maybe it’s on all of us too. “We the media” need a mea culpa moment. So many of us knew, or thought we knew, something was deeply wrong at Q.

Now we know for sure something was so amiss, if not criminally then at least morally, that a young woman felt it was part of her job, part of paying her dues, to take a man’s abuse.

It’s like something out of 1960s Mad Men, but it was 2010.

And for that, I for one, am deeply sorry.

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