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College abuse allegations are 'vague and generalized rumours' says Canadore prez

'The College has been limited in its ability to respond in the absence of anything but vague and generalized rumours'
George Burton Presser
George Burton. Photo by Stu Campaigne.

Canadore College President George Burton, in an email to staff this afternoon, called allegations of sexual abuse and discrimination at Canadore," vague and generalized rumours."

In the email he points out that there has been a discussion about "Canadore and our culture" in the media and public realm.

"This is particularly challenging as we enter prime recruitment time for colleges in that the discussion may not accurately reflect the Canadore that you and I know."

Burton says for many of the staff "this has been a difficult time" then addresses the issue of "anonymous allegations that have been made against some members of management. Particulars in respect of these anonymous allegations were not provided to the College, and the College has been limited in its ability to respond in the absence of anything but vague and generalized rumours."

That, despite the fact that the college union OPSEU wrote in a letter to the Canadore Board that over 50 employees have come forward with the allegations to a Toronto lawyer.

See: Canadore employees charging poisonous work environment balloons to 50 says union

The letter, signed by Warren Thomas, the president of OPSEU, goes on to say "To protect all employees against reprisals and further harassment, the accused in these allegations must be removed from the workplace pending the outcome of the investigation and publication of extensive, concrete measures to end the poisonous workplace environment at Canadore – once and for all."

BayToday tried to contact Board of Governors Chair Bob Nicholls by email and phone today to see if he agreed with Burton's "vague and generalized rumours" comment but received no response.

In his email today, Burton further states, "Let me start by saying that as an academic institution, we support and, in fact, encourage freedom of speech. Tough discussions held with respect, integrity and accountability are a critical component of education and academia. However, equally as important as freedom of speech is due process."

The college has retained a third-party investigator and Burton says "We are committed to the principle of due process and transparency throughout the ongoing investigation.  Rumour and innuendo are not a sufficient basis for the College to currently take any action in respect of these allegations; due process must be respected in order to ensure fairness for all involved and as such we have refrained from making detailed comments in the public."

He does not address, however, calls for the manager that is the centre of the allegations to be put on paid leave until that investigation is complete.

A rally outside the college is planned for this afternoon and is calling for respect in the Canadore workplace.

See: Rally for a respectful Canadore workplace planned

"We are aware that there are some members of our community who have expressed concern and apprehension about coming forward with complaints and concerns," continues Burton.

"As the investigation continues I will provide you, as appropriate, with updates. In the meantime you have my assurance that we are committed to helping ensure that the entire Canadore community feels safe and respected, and that there is a fair resolution to the current allegations."

While the email addressed the investigation, it didn't touch on the issue that may have an even bigger impact on enrolment. A report from the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities two weeks ago said that of 23 Community Colleges, Canadore College does poorly, ranking second at 57.6 per cent, behind only Loyalist, (59.7) in the "Sexual Harassment Experience Index."  

See: Survey says: Canadore has second highest rate of reported sexual harassment of Ontario colleges


Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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