Yesterday at the BBQ, I got chatting with one of the ladies I was sitting next to. I honestly am not sure how the topic came up, but it turns out she was the plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case back in 1987. All of this information is available via a Google search.
I was sitting next to Bonnie Robichaud and back in 1979, she was a cleaner with DND. Her supervisor asked her to perform various sexual acts with him and she complained to the Human Rights Tribunal. As a result of her complaint, she was ostracized at work and demoted, in an effort to get her to quit. But this strong woman, a woman who not only worked full-time, but was raising 5 children, stood her ground and pursued the case. And in 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada made the groundbreaking decision that employers were to be held responsible for ending sexual harassment in the workplace.
I was struck by this woman. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to persevere with the case. She told me how isolated she felt at work because her supervisor turned the other staff against her. “But,” she told me, “there was no way I could just drop this. I knew if I didn’t fight this fight that it would only continue to happen. And I couldn’t let other women be treated the way I was treated.” She went on to tell me that after the Supreme Court of Canada made their ruling, she had never felt so empowered in all her life. I left the park yesterday feeling truly honoured to have met her. She thanked me for listening to her. But I knew I was the one who should be thankful for the fight she waged to try and make work environments better for women.
Sources and Further Information:
- Case Briefs: Robichaud vs Canada (Treasury Board)
- Public Service Alliance of Canada
- University of Alberta Library Archives