Still The Same

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Something has been gnawing away at me the past week and I’ve been having a hard time articulating what exactly it is. The Toronto Fringe is on and my feeds have been flooded with emotional posts about the ups and downs of mounting a show, of the love people have felt when it’s received well, of the anger and abuse they feel when there’s an unfavourable review – the consistent thing is that everyone seems to rally around and declare their support;

“All Fringe shows deserve a 5 star review”

” This review was unfair, we need to all get out and support the show”

“I’m overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from everyone, thank you”

Looking at this you’d think we all exist in a very supportive, inclusive community.

We don’t.

I’ve written before about my shitty experiences with Theatre 20 and in particular, Brian Goldenberg, and doubtless some will read this and think I should let it go. The problem is, nothing has changed. At least, not for the perpetrators.

This year Brian has 3 shows in the Toronto Fringe Festival – a good friend of mine is acting in one of them, something this friend avoided telling me so as not to make things “awkward”. He knows the whole story. He was one of the first people I told, years ago, when this started. He doesn’t mind working with someone who knowingly discriminated against someone because of a mental illness and who thought that someone deserves to be fired if they try to assert their human rights.

This topic has come up several times in the past few days, while hanging around the tent, and I’ve been told by multiple friends that they know the story, believe me, but will not be saying anything or changing the way they interact with him because they’ve known him for a while and again, don’t want to make things “awkward”. Don’t want to cause any “trouble”. They support me, they’re just not willing to show that, or say that to anyone but me.

The same thing happened when I first wrote about this. I kept quiet for over a year, waiting until I had proof, posting the results of a legal hearing rather than sharing my own thoughts and feelings. I was right. That was proven, non-subjective. A lot of people read that blog. Quite a few sent me private messages and shared similar stories about the men in question. But no one from the community said anything out in the open. Nothing changed.

Around that time a reporter (someone who knows well and writes about the theatre) reached out to do an interview about it. I had hopes that, with this being published in something major, more would see it and maybe something would change. Delays caused it to eventually be dropped. I don’t blame him, he’s reached out a couple times to apologize, once quite recently. He said there may be something happening soon that could lead to him reviving the story – I hope so. But for now, nothing has happened. Nothing changed.

I saw Brian in the audience at a performance the other night, ironically for a show about a woman who struggles with anxiety and depression and eventually leaves her job because of it. Shows like this are celebrated because it’s “important to eliminate the stigma” around mental health, to recognize it as a serious, legitimate illness, to support those who are suffering – but here is a documented, proven case of discrimination having taken place in our own tiny community, and nothing has changed. He didn’t even bother to come to the hearing. It didn’t cost him his job, clearly hasn’t damaged his reputation. He did read the post, because he contacted the HRTO (with me cc’d) to accuse me (wrongly) of slander, so clearly he knows that this behaviour should be damaging, but his lack of recognition let alone an apology tells me he really doesn’t care.

None of this changed him, but it did change me.

I missed weeks of work leading up to the hearing, costing me money I couldn’t afford to lose, piling on to the already nearly unbearable stress I deal with from my anxiety, daily, I’m sure it damaged my reputation because whether it was justified or not, no one wants an employee who misses 3 weeks of work, and here we are, another year later, and I’m still feeling the residual effects. I question my importance to my friends, and whether there’s any point in confiding in them. I question the support of my community, and whether there’s any sincerity behind the daily posts about acceptance and inclusion. I question myself, and whether saying this will give me any peace of mind or just further isolate me. I question whether I want to be a part of a community that seems to be more interested in appearing inclusive and supportive than actually doing anything to achieve that.

It’s time for something to change.

Me Too.

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“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote. The movement started in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its ensuing fall out.
Every girl on my Facebook changed their status to this yesterday. Another very small step towards solidarity that will ultimately not change anything. It’s frustrating. I’m going to rant now, apologies if it’s not the best written piece on here.
I’m sure most of us have more than one story, especially considering harassment is included in this, and that’s something that is often endured on a weekly, and for some, daily basis. As for assault, the numbers there are frighteningly high as well. I remember being in grade 7, and being told by our teacher that 1 in 5 of us would be assaulted in our lifetime; sitting with a group of 5 girls, this stuck with me. Now, as an adult, I’ve heard that statistic raised to 1 in 4, and I know that out of that group from so many years ago at least 2 had that fate.
So how is this status change helping? I think all of us reasonable people know that, even if we don’t know which ones, someone we are close to has been the victim of sexual harassment or assault. The problem with these simple little remarks is that they are not calling out the people who are the perpetrators, and often, when someone does, they are labeled a vindictive bitch, and find their personal lives being scrutinized by those who are sure they were somehow “asking for it”. We all know about the victims, but how about the scum that made them victims in the first place?
Admittedly, there’s a lot of reasons for someone to not want to come forward and name names. And I myself have stories I am not interested in sharing. But as one of them has already been written about twice on this blog, and is a matter of public record, I’m going to share it one more time.
In 2015 I worked for Theatre 20, and I thought I had my dream job, working there as Producer. I was wrong. I won’t bother getting into all the hell that was a part of the daily job, because it’s off topic, instead I’ll skip ahead to the sexual harassment that somehow lead to me, rather than the perpetrator, being fired.
As I mentioned in a past blog, Chris Weber (currently working as VP of Whole Life Balance Canada), a married man 11 years my senior who was a member of our Board, and so in a position of power, had on numerous times made inappropriate advances. The only one which I had real “proof” of, and so what was the main focus of that aspect of my HRTO claim, was a text message in which he stated he wanted to see me in a “shorter dress”.
screenshot-2016-12-17-21-00-32
Admittedly, much worse things have been said, but given the power imbalance this concerned me enough to mention it to my boss, who also happened to be the only other (full-time) employee at the company, Brian Goldenberg. Apparently he never addressed it in any way, and in the evidence for the hearing (he didn’t actually bother to attend the hearing himself), tried to say I had told him it was “no big deal” – not sure why I would’ve bothered saying anything if that was the case…
Eventually, the harassment from Weber and other members of the board got to the point where I felt I couldn’t work there under those circumstances, and I told Brian this. I asked him to deal with it, and when weeks went by with no change, I said that if he wouldn’t do something about it, I would. I offered to speak to the Board myself, and advised that if the inappropriate behaviour didn’t stop after that, I would be forced to file a Human Rights claim about it. For this, I was fired.
Again, you can read all about it in my blog, Finally, but the gist of it is, I was fired with no notice and no cause, and at the hearing won my case, with the HRTO determining that they were guilty of Sexual Harassment (Weber, specifically, though this was against the company, not an individual), and Threat of Reprisal (Brian, in this case). I was supposed to be awarded financial compensation for this, but they have ignored this judgement as well as letters from my lawyer, so here we are, years after the initial incident, and all that has changed is I no longer work there (well, in fairness, the company did fold, but for different reasons).
Why would anyone speak up? I lost my job over it. I wasn’t traumatized from the harassment so that was the worst of it, if you don’t count the years of time and money and stress trying to take this through court. I won my case, which should mean that something is done but they refuse to pay the small amount of money I was awarded, and the perpetrators continue to work in the same community (Brian had a show in the Fringe this past year), and the HRTO isn’t punitive so essentially nothing was done to either of them. And this is still a better turnout than a lot of women have. Some try a civil case and throw thousands of dollars into it. Some try criminal (where worse things have happened), and are attacked on the stand as the defence tries to paint them as some whore. I’ve heard so many terrible stories from people I know, that are not mine to share, but I can say I’m not surprised that they didn’t speak up. It rarely goes well. So I guess this #metoo is the safest way someone can say something because basically everyone can say it (isn’t that a disgusting thought?).
But you know what I’d love to see? (and I know, this totally makes me a vindictive bitch out on a “witchhunt”), instead of #metoo how about #hedid, and you name the fucker who’s put you through shit. Let’s stop quietly adding ourselves to the list of people who are treated like meat, or treated like idiots, or treated like bitches if we dare to stand up for ourselves. This is not something where the focus should be on the victims, it should be on a perpetrators. Maybe that will stop them, or at least warn the next girl to watch out. I’m so sick of seeing how many people are a part of #metoo.
/End rant.

Finally.

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It’s going on 2 years, more than 3 months since the hearing, and I finally have the results of my Human Rights complaint against Theatre 20.

It’s been a long day, so I’m not going to comment on it much now, I’ll just post a link to the entire document (which is public information, and will be available on the HRTO website soon, not sure exactly how long it takes them to post them but I’ve seen some from the end of March), and put some excerpts here.

I’ll point out, again, that I am well within my legal right to post all of this, though I’m sure I’ll get more complaints for doing it. I think it’s important to speak up when you’re mistreated, especially when the HRTO agrees – if I hear complaints again that this will damage anyone’s reputation I’ll repeat, as before, it’s not my saying it that’s hurting you, it’s that you’ve done it.

You can read a copy of the entire decision, here: 2017 HRTO 394 Dix Final 4-April-2017.
The only thing I have edited is the contact information for myself and the Respondent at the top of the page.

For those of you that don’t feel like reading all 43 pages, here’s the Coles Notes version:

Injury to Dignity & Self-Respect

I didn’t manage to prove all aspects of my case, unfortunately, but that wasn’t surprising considering it was very difficult for me to find any proof. Many of the things that were said or done happened in-person, so I had no written documents, no video or anything to support my claims. Since I worked with Brian Goldenberg alone (with the exception of a part-time student employee sometimes, and some volunteers, none of whom were privy to the conversations and issues that I raised in my complaint), the majority of really was “he said/she said”, though of course in this situation, the “he” didn’t even attend the hearing. So it came down to me versus the men in my complaint, none of whom were there for daily operations and all of whom I had complaints against; nonetheless, I was able to prove my points well enough that I was awarded “compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect” (page 43). So let’s look at what that means.

Well in my case, it broke down into 2 main sections; my complaint of sexual harassment from Chris Weber, and the threat of reprisal I received when stating that I would file a formal complaint if that harassment, and other issues, did not stop. When it comes to sexual harassment and the code;

[48] Section 7(3)(a) of the Code provides that “every person has a right to be free from a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person where the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome”.

As the Vice Chair notes in the assessment;

[49] Mr. Weber was clearly a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit to the applicant. He was a member of the respondent’s board of directors where the applicant was an employee. He described himself as being in a leadership and mentorship role to the applicant. He had recommended her to be hired for her position with the respondent.

While there were other issues as well, the one piece of hard evidence I had in regards to this was the text message, which I posted in my last blog about the hearing;

screenshot-2016-12-17-21-00-32

As I stated in my claim, this message made me uncomfortable not just in its nature, but more so in the fact that he was,

  1. Was in a position of power above me
  2. Considerably older than me
  3. Married (and recently, too)
  4. Was apparently hitting on me to my face, while insulting me and complaining about me behind my back

It felt very much like a power trip, and apparently the Vice Chair agreed;

[50] Even if I were to accept Mr. Weber’s evidence that the semi-colon was intended by him as a smiley face, and not as a winky face, and that the “hehehe” was intended as a light-hearted hee-hee-hee, the fact remains that Mr. Weber sent text messages to the applicant describing her outfit from the event as “hot” and telling her that he was “looking forward to [her] coming out with the shorter dress”. In my view, these comments are clearly and obviously sexual in nature.

He goes on to discuss the legal definition of an “advance” and what that means in regards to the code, all of which again, you can read in full if you click the link at the top. The main point however is summed up here;

[50] …I have no hesitation in finding that Mr. Weber ought reasonably to have known that these comments were unwelcome to the applicant.

How does that come back to what is officially a complaint against The Twenty Theatre Company? Well;

[51] As Mr. Weber is vice-chair of the board of directors of the respondent theatre company, I find that Mr. Weber is part of the directing mind of the respondent. As such, the respondent is liable for his conduct: see Halliday v. Van Toen Innovations Incorporated, 2013 HRTO 583; Strauss v. Canadian Property Investment Corporation (No. 2), (1995) 24 C.H.R.R. D/43 at para. 55; and Ghosh v. Domglas (No. 2), (1992) 17 C.H.R.R. D/216 at para. 54.

[52] Accordingly, I find that the respondent is liable for the violation of the applicant’s rights under s. 7(3)(a) of the Code.

Their other violation of the Human Rights Code was in the threat of reprisal; I told Brian that I had complaints, he said he’d deal with them, he didn’t (according to testimony, he never even shared them with the Board Members), so I said I would speak to them myself and that if things didn’t change, I would have to file a complaint. They stated that was a reason for my termination, which is illegal.

In testimony from Board Member Dave Morris, it was clearly stated that this was the case, as is described here;

[78] Mr. Morris testified that the executive director said that the “penny dropped” in his mind and he decided to terminate the applicant’s employment after she had indicated to him that unless he spoke up to the board and committee members about their behavior towards the applicant, then she was going to go do it herself. Mr. Morris testified that this was described to him by the executive director as the “deciding moment”.

In regards to how exactly this is dealt with by the code;

[105] Section 8 of the Code provides, in its relevant part: “Every person has a right to claim and enforce his or her rights under this Act . . . without reprisal or threat of reprisal for so doing”. In Noble v. York University, 2010 HRTO 878 at para. 33, the Tribunal stated that in an application alleging reprisal, the following elements must be established: (1) an action taken against, or threat made to, the applicant; (2) the alleged action or threat is related to the applicant having claimed, or attempted to enforce a right under the Code; and (3) an intention on the part of the respondent to retaliate for the claim or attempt to enforce the right. Intent may be proved by direct evidence or by inference: Entrop v. Imperial Oil Ltd. (No. 7) (1995), 23 C.H.R.R. D/213, upheld with respect to reprisal, (2000), 37 C.H.R.R. 481, 2000 CanLII 16800 (ON CA).

And when it comes to my case?

[106] With regard to the first element, there is no question that the termination of the applicant’s employment is an adverse or negative action taken against the applicant.

[107] With regard to the second element, the first issue is whether and, if so, when the applicant claimed or attempted to enforce her Code rights

[108] While I am not convinced that a generic reference to “workplace rights” would be sufficient to establish that an applicant had claimed her Code rights, I note that her use of this term was clearly understood by the executive director to refer to human rights. This is evidenced by the executive director’s e-mail dated July 23, 2015, in which he makes reference to the applicant’s “threat of human rights action against us on Tuesday night” (July 21, 2015 was a Tuesday). As a result, I find that, whatever words she used, the applicant was clearly understood by the executive director, and hence by the respondent, to have claimed and threatened to enforce her human rights under the Code at least as of the night of July 21, 2015.

[109] The next question for me to consider is whether the applicant’s claim of, and threat to enforce, her human rights was related to the decision to terminate her employment…on the basis of Mr. Morris’ evidence, it was this very text from the applicant, in which she threatened to go directly to the board members to raise her concerns about how she perceived they were treating her and the executive director, which was the proverbial “final straw” that caused the executive director to make the final termination decision.

Basically it needs to be proven that, not only did a say I would make a complaint and that I felt my rights were being violated, but that they understand it as such, and that then I faced reprisal because of it. The result?

[111] As a result, I find that the applicant has established that her right to be free from reprisal has been violated by the respondent, in contravention of s. 8 of code on the basis of my finding that her threat of human rights action against the respondent was a factor in the final decision to terminate the applicant’s employment. In making this finding, I am cognizant of the well-established principle that a protected right under the Code need not be the only or even the principal reason for the adverse treatment, and that it is sufficient for the protected right to have contributed to, or played a role in, the adverse treatment: see Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v. Bombardier Inc. (Bombardier Aerospace Training Center), 2015 SCC 39 at paras. 43 to 52.

The amount of money I am supposed to be compensated with will be just enough (literally) to pay back the debt I have from the loans I had to take to avoid being homeless after losing that job. So please don’t think I’m getting rich off this, or coming out ahead. As I’ve said from the start I was much more concerned with having this heard, and I do understand that a judgement saying I’m awarded a certain amount doesn’t mean I’ll actually ever see it, so who knows how that will go. So I guess it’s not actually all over, but I can’t tell you the relief I felt reading this today.

Finally, while it didn’t exactly play into the end result, since this is an issue of particular importance to me, I’ll end this off with this note;

[101] The third allegation of discrimination because of disability relates to the respondent’s decision to cut off her access to her e-mail account on July 23, 2015. There can be no dispute that the applicant’s medical condition was expressly relied upon by the executive director as stated in the July 23, 2015 e-mail as one of the reasons for cutting off access. I further find that the executive director’s fear that the applicant may become “destructive” in light of the decision to terminate her employment plays on stereotypes about persons with mental health disabilities.

I have clinical depression and anxiety with agoraphobia. I have been being treated for part of this for about 7 years, and the other about 4, and have been medicated most of this time. It does sometimes make it difficult for me to get out of bed, to go outside, to not want to crawl into a hole and die, BUT, it in no way makes me “destructive” and the fact that Brian Goldenberg explicitly said to Board Members that my “condition” meant I couldn’t be trusted is not only insulting but idiotic. I feel like most people will realize it, but I’ve still gotta say it.

If I could give anyone advice from any of this (and of course, this is not legal advice, it’s just what I wish I had done differently), it would be to disclose any disabilities early on in your job. Admittedly, not in the first 3 months; you can be fired for anything then, and the sad truth is that most people are not very accepting or tolerant of mental illness or disability, so I would not count on them being “good people” about it. However, despite the fact that Brian stated to the Board Members that “my condition” was a reason for not trusting me, I was unable to prove that I was fired based on discrimination due to a disability, primarily because I made other excuses for it before. Since I was initially told it was fine to work from home, I didn’t think agoraphobia would be a problem. If I could have days where I didn’t need to go out, I could still work. However, when I had those days, instead of saying that I needed to stay home because of anxiety or depression, I would say I was “sick”. While technically that was true, and while I did that because of the types of negative responses I had had in the past when I did disclose my mental illness, it eventually came back to bite me, as they could now claim that my disability didn’t prevent me from doing any work, and that it had never come up before. It’s sort of a catch 22 in my opinion, but that’s how it is, I suppose. I’ve been very lucky in that, the jobs i’ve had since then – at Tarragon Theatre and now with Canamedia’s Teens 101 – I’ve worked with incredibly kind, accepting and understanding people. And while I have still had many days where I couldn’t go to work, it was never because of what was waiting for me there. Those were and are both happy and (to use the popular term of the moment) “safe places”.

-E.

FINALLY…Almost.

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It’s been a year and 5 months in the making, and it’s still not over yet. But today, I finally finished my hearing for my Human Rights action against Theatre 20. While I may have to wait up to 3 months for a decision, I’ve decided, to hell with it, whether I win or lose, I want to get my side of the story out there now. It’s been exhausting and so why wait?

Before I get started, I’d like to point a few things out – namely, because people in the hearing liked to talk as though they were victims, and I had done some horrible injustice to them by insisting they respect my rights. So for them, or anyone who may think like them who wants to try and say I’m doing something wrong here, I’d like to point out;

“Like the courts, the hearings and decisions of the HRTO are public” – HRTO FAQ’s

In fact, at one point I was startled to have a stranger walk in and sit down at the back to watch; he has his own hearing coming up, and wanted to get a feel for it. So yes, I am allowed to say all of this, and yes, everything I am saying is true and based off of sworn statements and/or written evidence. Which means, when two of the Respondents decided to throw out there during testimony that they felt I had “defamed them”, they were wrong. Mainly, because the remarks were true, but also because my following the legal procedures to file a complaint of sexual harassment and discrimination is NOT derogatory, but rather my right as a Canadian, and a human being. So here’s a definition, for reference;

Canadian Defamation Law. … The more modern definition (of defamation) is words tending to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. The common law protects every person from harm to their reputation by false and derogatory remarks about their person, known as defamation. CanLaw Inc.

Since this is a long and relatively complicated thing to explain, I think I’ll break it up into a few posts. I’ll start with the most important one, the thing that after the Hearing, after hearing witness testimonies, I am the most upset about;

Brian Goldenberg

I met Brian not long after he took on the position of Executive Director at Theatre 20. It was a job I had applied to as well, and so when I heard he got it I reached out with congratulations, hoping he would keep me in mind if another position opened up. Turns out that several Board Members who were at my interview quite liked me, and encouraged Brian to reach out once he got settled in. So in early 2015, we met up and discussed how I could be involved in the company.

My Job

I started off part-time, 20 hours a week, as Brian was still trying to sort out some issues with the management crossover. But by April, I was a full-time employee, and it wasn’t long until he gave me the title of Producer. As any theatre producer knows, the job is varied, and I did everything from web design, research, newsletters, venue coordination, social media, fundraising – anything that needed doing. As he was still settling into his role, I wasn’t given a ton of long-term tasks, but I was constantly assured I would have a contract “this week” and on more than one occasion he referenced the fact that he expected us to both be there for at least 5 years; I considered this a career, moved out of my house in Brampton so I could better manage the commute to work (anxiety & agoraphobia do not mix with long commutes), and that eventually lead to the end of my engagement. While he claimed in the Response that I didn’t care enough about Theatre 20, the fact is I changed everything else in my life to accommodate it. I considered myself in for the long haul.

I won’t go into the details of the issues I had with the day-to-day work with Brian, because frankly, I considered them not much more than an annoyance at the time. He was very slow to approve things, yet I wasn’t allowed to do anything on my own. While this and other issues were frustrating, I had no idea at the time that I was being blamed for anything not being done, and I trusted that he was doing his best, being honest, and that, when it came to the complaints I made, was “on my side”. I have since learned I was very wrong.

The Complaints

I’ll go into the specific complaints in another blog, because otherwise this will be far too long. For now, all you need to know is that I made complaints about 2 main issues;

  1. Sexual Harassment: Board Member Chris Weber had been overly flirtatious, and in a text message told me that I was “hot” and that he wanted to see me in a “shorter dress” – I told Brian about this and my fear that, if I rejected or complained to Weber about these things, there would be a reprisal. I didn’t want things to escalate in any way – no more flirting, but also no angry board member to deal with. I told Brian I didn’t want to later be accused of “not saying anything” (something you hear about women in harassment cases ALL the time) at the time. We didn’t have any particular policies in place, but after the conversation I felt confident that the issue would be resolved, or, at the very least, that it wouldn’t come back to bite me later. Again, I thought he was on my side.
  2. Discrimination & Harassment: On many, MANY occasions (we’re talking at least a dozen) I expressed to Brian that I felt the behaviour of certain Board Members – primarily Chris Skillen – during meetings was inappropriate. There was yelling and insulting remarks (mostly towards Brian) and I felt particularly uncomfortable with the way I was spoken about (rather than to), and some comments they had made about using Conservatory members (a youth mentorship program) as “promo girls”, as well as insisting on hugs and other comments made (again, details in another post), had pushed to me request, and eventually insist, that Brian speak to them about their behaviour. I offered from the start to do it myself, but he wanted to be the one to deal with them, so I let it be. But every time a new issue (or, the same issue) would rise again, I’d say “I need you to talk to them about this”. Eventually, I hit a point where I said, “if you don’t talk to them and stop this, I will. And if that doesn’t work I’ll have to make a formal complaint” (again, whether Employment Standards or HRTO, I knew this was inappropriate for the workplace).

The Result

Much of this came to a head in July of 2015, when I received what I found to be an especially rude and unprofessional email from Chris Weber. To top it off, he had cc’d a number of people who did not need to be involved in the conversation, something I felt he’d done purposefully in an attempt to embarrass me. I had had enough. I told Brian to say something, found I wasn’t getting a response, and so replied myself – only to Chris and Brian – with the following;

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Apparently, this, along with the text I sent at the same time to Brian, saying that I would file a formal complaint if this email didn’t solve things, was “when the penny dropped” for Brian, and he decided I needed to be terminated (this is from sworn testimony given by Dave Morris, Chair of the Board). Dave added, while giving his testimony, that he believed my saying that I would speak to Board Members directly was legitimate cause for termination; it would be breaking the chain of command.

Let’s see what the code says about this;

“Section 8 of the Code protects people from reprisal or threats of reprisal.[146] A reprisal is an action, or threat, that is intended as retaliation for claiming or enforcing a right under the Code. 

People with psychosocial disabilities may try to enforce their Code rights by filing a grievance against an employer, making an application at the HRTO, or making an internal discrimination complaint to a service provider, housing provider, or to their employer. However, there is no strict requirement that someone who alleges reprisal must have already made an official complaint or application under the Code.[147] Also, to claim reprisal, a person does not have to show that their rights were actually infringed.[148]

The following will establish that someone experienced reprisal based on a Code ground:
– an action was taken against, or a threat was made to, the claimant
– the alleged action or threat was related to the claimant having claimed, or trying to enforce a Code right, and
– there was an intention on the part of the respondent to retaliate for the claim or the attempt to enforce the right.[149] – OHRC

Dave Morris was the only Respondent at the Hearing to admit that Brian had told him about my intention to follow through with my complaint, however, it wasn’t long until Brian made this known to everyone on the Board.

An email was submitted as evidence and I saw it for the first time this November; this was the first thing to make me change from feeling bitter that Brian hadn’t done more to support me (but thinking it wasn’t his choice) to realizing that he had been lying to me, as well as Board Members, and that he was actually the key person behind my unethical termination.

To me, he was saying:

screenshot-2016-12-13-19-49-22

To me, he was claiming to be caring and understanding. To the rest of the Board, he was saying that we hadn’t spoken in 2 days and that I couldn’t be trusted due to my “condition”. 

In the July 23 email Brian lists off 3 reasons that he feels I need to be blocked from all accounts (rather than just spoken to) before my imminent termination, they are;

“a) the knowledge of her condition” – here he openly admits, in writing, to the entire Board of Directors, that my disclosed disability, my medical condition, is a cause for his actions.

“b) her threat of human rights action against us on Tuesday night” – he even bolds this, it’s glaring. I am illegally facing reprisal for my request that my human rights be enforced. And if any Board Members were unaware of my complaints before (I do believe, after testimony, that Brian did not disclose this to them, despite my requests, but I’m not sure) they certainly knew from this email.

“c) the fact that I hadn’t heard from her in 2 days and had no idea how vindictive she would be” – this one actually made me laugh. For one, I’m not a vindictive person, and he had no reason to believe I was one, but more importantly, this is a lie. He had spoken to me less than 24 hours before (in that above text) when I disclosed my disability, a conversation he is even referencing here.

There are also a couple key issues with this, firstly, much of it is untrue;

I had told him the day before that I was not well and unable to come in due to anxiety – This text is posted above. While I was later in contacting him that day than usual, I did get in touch, and I had only delayed because I had been up all night in a depressed ball of anxiety – I slept in. I did not attend work that day due to illness.


Chris Morelli did NOT call Brian Goldenberg. Not only did he testify to his fact, under oath, but he managed to check his phone records that day; no calls in or out from Brian’s number, or the Theatre 20 office. Chris further stated that he, a) was not in regular contact with me at that time, and would not have called in regards to my whereabouts, b) I was no longer living with him, he would not have known about my whereabouts or activities, c) he had only twice called Brian, both times on my behalf, and months before this incident. On both occasions it was when I was living with him and because I was sick; I requested he called and he did so.

Guess Brian wasn’t on my side.

The majority of the Respondent’s case relied on their trying to prove that I was not dismissed because of a disability, or as reprisal (they claimed to not know about either, despite evidence to the contrary), but because of poor work performance. In their response they claimed I wouldn’t show up for work, would make mistakes such as spelling and grammatical errors in emails and other writing,  and that I was too slow in getting things such as LOIs done. While I requested documents to support this, I never got any; that’s because those things aren’t true. But while I initially assumed they were making it all up, I now believe that Brian told certain Board Members that those were issues – three of them testified to such. Brian, however, never said a negative word to me, and again, no evidence was supported to prove these claims. It all went on Brian’s word.

So what did he have to say about it?

Well you might think that in a case such as this, where 90% of the time the only person I interacted with was Brian, where all the “evidence” provided by the Respondent was based off of “Brian told me..”, that Brian Goldenberg would be their star witness. No such luck. He didn’t attend the hearing, they didn’t bother to summon him, and so a lot of it came down to hearsay. That and my side.

That may make it sound like a victory for me, but honestly I’m disappointed he didn’t attend. I was looking forward to asking him questions under oath, as I truly believed, before this hearing, that he was just afraid to speak up. He has a family, he wouldn’t want to risk his job – I couldn’t respect that in an employer, but I did understand. But now he hasn’t worked for the company for about 6 months (they ran out of money in February, apparently), so I thought, what’s stopping him? However after hearing other’s testify I realized how often he lied to me, and how, at least on several key occasions as I’ve outlined here, how often he lied to his superiors. So would he have told the truth at the hearing? Who knows. But regardless I felt it as time for me to say something here.

More to come.

-E.

NOTE: As a side note, while I don’t believe anything I have said implies this, I do want to make something clear; my complaint was against Theatre 20 and in particular 3 men I named as Respondents; Chris Skillen, Chris Weber, and Brian Goldenberg. I have met other members of the company – Board Members, Founding Artists, Volunteers etc. – who have been completely lovely people, and I do not have any issue with them, nor do I think the issues outlined here should be attributed to them in any way. A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch, though they did spoil over a year and a half of my life.

Another Theatre-Filled Year – Looking Back at my 2015

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Skimming the blog that I wrote about this time last year I can’t believe so much time has gone by. I think we always start off a new year feeling positive and optimistic, and things rarely turn out the way we expect, for better or for worse.

I’ve certainly had my share of crappy moments this year, but when I sit down to write something like this, a summary in a few hundred words of several hundred days, I find that the things that stick out are still mostly positive. Why? Simply because while I can trace a positive experience back to every negative one, I never do the opposite; who cares what bad seems to follow from a good thing? Chances are, they aren’t really connected, and would you trade that good moment if it meant maybe not enduring the bad? When it comes to the negative, sure, it sucks. And honestly, if I were to just count them, this year has been mostly negative. However, with each and every bad moment I can follow it through and see how it played a crucial moment in the best times I’ve had this year. Flawed, contradictory logic? For sure. But whatever. If it gets you to the start of another year looking forward to the good things rather than dwelling on the bad, well, then, I don’t think anyone should complain.

So on that note, here’s a happy summary of all my fun-filled theatre experiences of 2015 – a reminder to you, and me, of all the good parts of the year and the bright things ahead.

A Dark New Musical

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I started off the year working on a new musical with one of my best friends. Those who know me likely know that it didn’t go as planned. At all. Still, in keeping with the positive theme of this post, here is what good did come from it;

  1. I met some amazingly talented people and was lucky enough to make some really great new friends. Theatre is all about connections and I made some good business ones there as well.
  2. I helped to create and produce an original, full-length musical, something that, not only had I never done before, but, regardless of how it turned out in the end, is a pretty big accomplishment in itself. I can’t tell you the number of hours put into that show, how exhausting it was on so many levels, but despite that I came out of it not jaded, not angry, still loving theatre and still loving the people I worked with. Anyone who has heard all the inside stories knows that that fact alone is nothing short of a miracle! It also tells me that, yes, I am in the right business.
  3. I got to visit NYC again for a little over a week. One of my favourite cities, I love going there and am trying to make it a goal to visit at least once every year.
  4. For better and for worse, I got to see the true colours of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very valuable thing to discover. For the most part, I was proud and very happy with what I saw, and for the rest, well, lesson learned.

I Wanna Be A…Producer?

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Conor, Kenton, Matt & myself

As I think I’ve said before, I started off producing purely out of necessity; there aren’t a lot of people out there who get excited by budgets and spreadsheets and who would prefer to stay behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly while most of the groups asks each other, “what do producers do, anyway?”. I had produced all of Bygone’s shows but not given much thought to doing it outside of that, until a friend of mine (who almost NEVER gives compliments) told me he thought I was good at it, and that it was a path I should follow. I took that to heart, as I do just about all that he says, still, I didn’t think there would really be any opportunity as I felt producers must have some sort of skill that I was lacking (although I wasn’t really sure what that would be).

In early February 2015 I started working for Theatre 20, initially without any title, just happy to be earning a living working in theatre in some capacity. When they decided what my role would be I was surprised to be given the title of Producer, but when they explained what I would be doing and why they thought that was the right role I realized, heh, that is what a producer does, that is what I’ve been doing and maybe this all isn’t as unattainable as I thought.

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35mm: A Musical Exhibition, Toronto Premiere, May 2015

A few months later (on a project outside of T20) I was the Assistant Producer for the Canadian premiere of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition and I found myself working on a show that starred an actress I had eagerly seen perform (and gotten an awkward fan photo with) about 10 years before. Small world, eh? And again, maybe not as impossible as I had thought.

Things with Theatre 20 didn’t work out but here again I learned some valuable lessons; don’t take people on their word. Don’t trust in someone just because you feel they are a “good person”. And when it comes down to it, it IS worth sticking to your guns and having a say, just make sure you get everything in writing so that if it comes back to bite you, you can prove that you were the one coming from the right place. I hope to be able to go into all of this in more detail in the new year.

What working with T20 did do, besides teaching me the above lessons, is give me the confidence to say, yes, I can be a producer. And so I went into those musicals feeling like I knew what I was doing. And I continued to put together Bygone, slowly easing more and more into a producer’s position. It also encouraged me to apply for the Assistant Producer position at Tarragon; I start there in the new year.

Bygone Theatre – INCORPORATED

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We didn’t change the name, didn’t add an “inc” or anything to it, so I guess most people would never know anything changed, but this year we applied and were granted non-profit incorporation status for Bygone Theatre and I couldn’t be happier. Granted, I have yet to make any money off this company (the shows with profit have directly financed the following shows – I don’t get paid for any of my work), BUT I can still say that at 26 years old I now own and run my own company, which is pretty nifty. Being non-profit meant I needed a board of directors and I am fortunate enough to have gotten an amazing team. Not only are they talented, with artistic opinions I respect, and a motivation and drive necessary for the company’s growth, they are great people and great friends. I think we’re set up well for the new year with this group at the helm.

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Bygone Board – Elizabeth, Conor, Elizabeth & Leete

More Freelance Work

As I did more work for my own company and other’s, I was surprised to find people actually liking what I’d done (who’d a thunk it?). I started doing some web design for friends and found that I liked it a lot. In the new year, I’m signing up for some more technical courses so that I feel qualified to advertise myself as a web designer, but already the encouragement I’ve gotten is great. Maybe this year some of that work will actually turn a profit!

True-Blue

As I’ve sort of said already, if I had to summarize this year with one general theme, one “lesson learned”, it would be knowing now who to trust (and not to) and who my true friends are. In some cases, it was obvious. In others, I was pleasantly surprised. But all round I’ve found that time together or apart has no baring on a friendship; it’s the quality of the person, not the quantity of the time spent together, and someone you’ve known for 12 years can cease to be a friend in a blink of an eye while someone you’ve known for 2 months can become your main source of support. I’ve been surprised by the kindness and generosity of a few people in particular, and in addition to knowing that I will pay them back as soon as I’m able, it’s also encouraged me to spread the love to some strangers. Not everyone is lucky enough to have friends like these, I know, so it’s time to share some of that luck.

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What’s Next

I start my job as Assistant Producer at Tarragon Theatre on January 5, 2016. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’m grateful for the chance to work with one of the most respected companies in the city, and know that at the very least, I will work with some talented people whose careers I aspire to. I’m sure there’ll be much more than that, but I’ll save it for when I actually start working there.

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With Bygone, I’m working on making the Retro Radio Hour a regular program and talking to some of those involved about how we can make it tighter and better; we’ve got some great ideas brewing. As well, I will be directing another show, something I’ve really missed doing for the past year, when we mount Wait Until Dark. Plus, I am finally getting the chance to produce Vaudeville Revue, something I have been thinking about for the past 3 or more years. This is the year to set down our guidelines, to make an impression, to prepare ourselves for the 2016-2017 season, which will be our first fully-scheduled regular season. Lots of work, but I’m ready – bring it on.

So to everyone who has been a part of this year, thank you. Regardless of what our interaction was, what our current relationship is, you all helped to shape a year that has been the one with the most personal and career-related growth in…I don’t even know how long. The positive moments inspire me and the negative ones push me to drive forward and prove that this year can be better. Let’s see what 2016 has in store.

-E.

Theatre 20’s 2015/2016 Season

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Standing with Jamieson Child, Matt McGrath & Michael Zahorak.

Monday June 8th was the Theatre 20 Season Launch Party, held at the snazzy Vagabondo Italian Ristorante + Lounge downtown. The event was a blast & well worth all the hard work. It was great to see a mix of theatre supporters, young & old, as well as industry members of all levels, from friends of mine just starting out to actors like T20 Founding Artist Brent Carver, who is not only a Tony winner but also the recipient of the prestigious Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement; the highest honour in the performing arts.

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The place was packed!

The night consisted of a lot of fancy food, schmoozing & mingling, and of course our season announcement. There were preview performances from each of the shows we have in development, as well as some numbers by former Emerging Artists. Nora McLellan performed a beautiful piece from The End that we are presenting in November, and David Keeley sang a Leonard Cohen song as an introduction to this season’s production of Chelsea Hotel.

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Happy to see Kenton Blythe & Matt McGrath, neither of whom I’d seen in a while, and to meet Kenton’s friend, fellow producer Conor Fitzgerald!

I don’t usually do well in crowds, or meeting new people, but the party was very relaxed and, maybe because it was a room full of artists and we were there to celebrate, everyone was in high spirits and very easy to talk to. I definitely need to work on my name-memorizing skills, but it was nice to be able to do more than the usual “nice to meet you” and to actually engage with some people and hear about all the awesome projects happening in the city this summer and over the next year.

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I had met Colleen at the Musical Theatre Grant Writing workshop that JJ and I attended months back – great to hear a piece of hers. And Chris Weber (board member & YPT fundraising genius) proved to be a great way to meet people, as he basically knows everyone.

I’ll write much more about each of these as we get into them more (at the moment, I’ve basically just been working on booking spaces for workshops, rehearsals & performances, so I don’t have much to say on the artistic side of things), but for now here’s a summary of our various development projects;

Musical Works
Co-Produced with Musical Works in Concert
Rehearsal, Dramaturgy, Workshop:  August 18-23, 2015
Performances:  August 20-23, 2015 – Factory Theatre, Toronto

The celebration of new Canadian musicals in concert will run August 20-23, 2015. Stay tuned for more details.

The End
Based on the poems of Wilfred Owen and letters to his mother during the Great War
Conceived and Written by Peter Hinton
Music by Leslie Arden, Linda Catlin Smith, Allen Cole, Veda Hille, Alice Ping Yee Ho, Derek Holman, John Millard, David Sereda, Rodney Sharman, David Warrack
Co-produced with Theatres of War
Showcase Presentation:  November 11, 2015 – Tarragon Theatre, Toronto
This show centres on the letters written by Wilfred Owen to his mother during the Great War, as well as Owen’s poetry. A showcase presentation will be held at the Tarragon Theatre on Rememberance Day, 2015.

A Misfortune
Book by Kevin Michael Shea, Music by Scott Christian
Lyrics by Wade Bogert-O’Brien & Kevin Michael Shea
Co-produced with the Confederation Centre
Workshop:  July 14 – August 7, 2015
Showcase Presentation:  August 7, 2015 – Confederation Centre, Charlottetown

A married woman and a young lawyer walk through the woods. Their friendship has reached an impasse. Previously featured at the Toronto Next Stage Festival, this adaptation of an Anton Chekov story is described as “a romantic, bittersweet musical about small moments and momentous decisions.”

The Secret Life of Dr. James Miranda Barry
Based on the book by Ivan & Anne Kronenfeld
Book by Jen Shuber, Music & Lyrics by Nicky Phillips
Development:  September, 2015 – April, 2016
A musical centring around the life of Dr. James Miranda Barry, a 19th century surgeon who lived his adult life as male, but was discerned as female upon his death.
JJ hits it off with David Keeley's wife, Laura Lynne Burton

JJ hits it off with David Keeley’s wife, Laura Lynne Burton

We’ve also got one major production, Chelsea Hotel;

Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
Directed and Conceived by Tracey Power
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Steven Charles
A Firehall Arts Centre production in association with Theatre Passe Muraille
February 3-21, 2016 – Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto
The show, which had its world premiere in 2012 at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre, features the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. In it, six performers play seventeen different instruments in a tribute to the musical legend.
My Bygone buddy, Matt McGrath

My Bygone buddy, Matt McGrath

Then of course there are the training programs, the Conservatory & Composium, now both under the heading of “Academy”. Trimaine, our admin assistant, is spending the day calling & arranging audition times for the Conservatory, and I’m very happy to hear the names of a lot of talented people I know. Hopefully I’ll get to work with some of them this year.

So that’s about it! As I said, many more details, but I’ll get to those in time for the shows. For now my focus is bookings & fundraising here with T20, and then rehearsals & fundraising for Bygone; Kill Sister, Kill! is currently in the middle of auditions. Basically, I’m gonna spend the summer very broke, very tired, very busy & very fulfilled 🙂

-E.

Keeping Busy

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Big week ahead.

We start off today with the first round of auditions for Kill Sister, Kill! It’s going to be weird to be sitting in on auditions as something other than director, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that. We’ve got another night of them on Tuesday then callbacks next Sunday then right into rehearsals – things are chugging along. We had a long but very productive music meeting yesterday, pumping out some sounds for the overture and talking about the musical structure of the whole show. While after several hours of that and no real food besides Little Debbie Snack Cakes, we all start to get a bit giddy, but I think we made some good progress and I’m excited to see it pull together.

Tomorrow is the Theatre 20 Season Launch Party. It’s being held at Vagabondo Italian Ristorante + Lounge, which means I need to be dressed up, but since I’m also helping run the event I get to do things like carry risers & set up cords; we’ll see how well I do at that in a cocktail dress & heels. Should be a good night. We have a bunch of preview performances, tons of industry people coming and I’m expecting to see quite a few friendly familiar faces. I’ll update on the party & the season later this week.

I’m busily working on stuff for the next Bygone Theatre fundraiser, another Retro Radio Hour performance that will be used to raise money & give a sneak peak of Kill Sister, Kill! That comes up on July 4th, so I’ve gotta hustle in the next couple days to get the final things in place. Mostly I need to finish the poster design so I can start promoting it, and that’s something that I always take a while with.

Then of course there’s all the trip planning aspects of our trip to NYC. It is expensive to stay there, especially when you’re bringing a large group, so I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time looking things up and trying to find us the best deal. I want to get some of that nailed down this week so I can focus on more show-specific things. It’ll be a good time when we get there, but there’s nothing fun about the planning.

Meanwhile, I keep trying to get out in the evenings to meet new people and maintain my sanity; had a lovely time the other night and it’s always refreshing to meet someone outside of theatre who actually still has a decent understanding of it. Good drinks, good conversation, good time. Hoping to do that again soon, should I ever have another spare minute.

Back to the grind.
-E.