ACTRA Toronto President Theresa Tova's message to members about sexual harassment (October 27, 2017)
Abuse of power and sexual harassment is a systemic issue in society at large.
In the wake of the allegations about producer Harvey Weinstein, an alarming number of performers in our own union have started speaking out as well… in the newspapers and online.
I’m incredibly proud of the courageous women (and some men) who have called ACTRA to share their stories, or come in to speak to me and to staff about their own experiences here in Toronto.
The calls haven’t stopped and the stories I’m hearing are horrific.
But what I personally find more disappointing is how many of us have been abused and how few have filed complaints.
Is that because we feel we have no voice?
Have we become so immune, so used to being harassed, having perpetrators cross the line, on set and in the audition process?
As your President and as a woman who has been sexually attacked 4 times myself, I promise you that I am fiercely committed to fighting this on every front.
This is a complicated and nuanced problem.
Eventually, we are going to need everyone to come to the table - academics to collect data, government, law makers and police - but my first instinct was to ask our own industry, that we love so much, to take collective action to ensure the abuse stops!
Because no union or guild or agent or performer can do this alone.
So, what have we done so far?
I immediately reached out to Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen (CUES) and attended a meeting of CUES where all participants agreed that it is time to initiate a broader conversation and a plan for action.
As a result of that meeting, ACTRA is asking industry partners to join us in a few short weeks for a Roundtable on Sexual Harassment and Institutional Change.
We’re looking to create the gold standard for reporting on and dealing with sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
It is long past time for an industry conversation that makes casting practices reportable, accountable and a problem for the predator, not for the people they target.
We have reached out and gotten promises to be part of this roundtable from agents, casting directors, producers, directors, writers, crews, suppliers and other industry partners… because every organization, union and guild I’ve talked to is dealing with abuse of their own members as well.
All industry stakeholders are now looking at their own internal policies around harassment.
And so are we!
The ACTRA Toronto executive met and discussed an action plan.
At our coming Council meeting we will have a roundtable that will expand on the actions we need to take.
Meanwhile, we’ve hired a special advisor with experience in Human Rights and Sexual Harassment to assist us with our initiatives going forward - which include looking at our own By-Laws and Constitution, our anti-harassment policies, our member education courses, the discipline process and the enforcement of our Collective Agreements.
We’ve already met once with members who reached out in an emotionally-charged but rewarding focus group and have set up two more sessions to provide a safe space so that we can listen to the difficult stories that will inform what we bring forward to the industry-wide table.
We heard ideas about what needs to be done to create a safe working environment.
If you feel you need to be at the upcoming meetings, please call me.
While we are doing all that, there are actions we can all take NOW.
1. If you see an abusive situation SPEAK UP!
2. If you can’t help immediately call me, call ACTRA Toronto or, afterhours, call our Afterhours On Set Emergency Hotline.
3. Do NOT take any more meetings ALONE
4. Do not take meetings in hotel rooms or bars. If you must do so, bring your agent, bring your partner or bring a friend.
I want you to know the steps we are taking because I don’t want the responsibility of taking down a repeat offender to fall on you alone.
We’ve seen too many accusers dragged through the courts by folks who had deeper pockets than they did.
I know there is a lot of anger out there - deservedly so - and I'm angry too, but I think we should take some solace in knowing that, for the first time, we have the entire industry onside and a shared sense of urgency to fix these problems together.
ACTRA Toronto: 416-928-2278
After Hours Emergencies: 1-855-201-7823