Canada's former Ambassador to the United States once observed "They write well – they speak well – but they are wrong." This applies in spades to an open letter by the so-called "literary heavyweights" calling for an investigation into the handling of the Galloway case by the University of British Columbia. Galloway was fired by UBC after being accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behavior.
This article highlights how the open letter by a group of writers, particularly Margret Atwood, backfired because they were trying to protect one of their own under the notion that the UBC handling of the scandal was not fair and transparent. Quite rightly Atwood was called out on her position to which she responded: "My position is that UBC process was flawed and failed both sides, and the rest of my position that the model of the Salem Witchcraft Trials is not a good one."
As an expert in harassment and bullying in the workplace, I must point out that Atwood's position on this is dead wrong and dangerous. The process did not "fail both sides."
UBC handled this scandal properly. To open this up to further inquiry will not only require that the targets of the harassment and bullying be further victimized by additional exposure and being forced to relive what they have experienced. It will also discourage others who are abused, harassed and bullied to come forward.
If Galloway feels his firing was unfair, he has every right to appeal. Given that he has signed a confidentiality agreement, this suggests that he has settled with the university. The open letter by his friends is an attempt to fight the dismissal in the court of public opinion is frighteningly wrong insomuch that if they were successful in doing this, organizations will continue to turn the victims into the villains, which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest obstacle, in encouraging targets of the predators to come forward.
Atwood is considered to be a "feminist icon." Considering the position she has taken on this and her premature defense of Jian Ghomeshi, Canada's notorious sexual predator and workplace bully, suggests that she is the opposite—an anti-feminist icon. It would be interesting to hear her weigh in on Fox's Rodger Ailes, Donald Trump and Billy Bush.
Bravo to Marsha Lederman and the Globe and Mail for calling out Canada's tight-knit literary community on this.
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