VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto – Sexual Misconduct

VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto (“VIVA!”) is fully committed to safeguarding the welfare of its member children and youth.  It believes that the human rights of all persons associated with our organization must be protected, to ensure that every person associated with VIVA!, including staff, volunteers, family/parents of choristers and choristers are treated with dignity and respect, and are provided with equal rights and opportunities without discrimination including Sexual Harassment.

VIVA! is also committed to providing an environment in which all present are treated with respect and dignity. Every person has the right to be free from sexualized misconduct and harassment, including, but not limited to, harassment contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code (“Code”) and sexual misconduct of any form.  Sexual misconduct and harassment of any kind and discrimination will not be tolerated, condoned or ignored from any person, including staff members, volunteers, participants, interns, independent contractors, customers, clients, partners and members of the public.

Any member of staff, independent contractor, volunteer or intern who is found to be violating this policy by engaging in sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including the termination of their working/volunteer/membership relationship with VIVA!

VIVA! is committed to a comprehensive strategy to address sexual misconduct and harassment, including:

  • sharing this policy with all volunteers and staff to make sure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities;
  • providing an effective and fair complaints and investigation procedure;
  • putting preventative practices in to protect our members;
  • promoting appropriate standards of conduct at all times.

The right to freedom from sexual misconduct and harassment extends to all staff members, independent contractors, volunteers, VIVA! members and community participants.

It is also unacceptable for anyone involved in the work of VIVA! to engage in any form of harassment including sexual, when dealing with participants or others with whom they have professional dealings, such as suppliers or service providers.

This policy applies at every level of the organization and to every aspect of the environment and employment relationship, including recruitment, selection, promotion, transfers, training, pay, benefits and termination.

This policy also applies to VIVA! sanctioned activities that occur outside of the physical workplace such as during choir organized trips, fundraising events or organized trips or social activities including those which are outside of Ontario or Canada.  All volunteers and employees who are travelling with Viva choristers are required to acknowledge and abide by this policy. This policy encompasses behaviour taking place anywhere, including areas or countries outside of the Province of Ontario involving sanctioned VIVA! activities and events involving VIVA! members, volunteers and employees.

Throughout this policy, reference is made to “children and youth”.  This phrase is used to mean “those under the age of 16 or someone up to 18 if under the care of a Children’s Aid Society.  VIVA! also recognizes that some adults are also vulnerable to abuse, and therefore the procedures may be applied accordingly (with appropriate adaptations) to allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment and the protection of vulnerable adults.

“Staff” includes all employees, independent contractors and volunteers, of VIVA!

Sexual Misconduct is any behaviour of a sexual nature which is non-consensual.  It includes forcing or enticing a child or youth to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child or youth is aware of what is happening.  The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts.  This may also include involving children and youth in prostitution or pornography, or sexualized conduct of any form including through social media.

Discrimination: means any form of unequal treatment based on a Code ground, whether such treatment involves imposing burdens, obligations or disadvantages or denying benefits or opportunities. It may be intentional or unintentional. It may involve direct actions that are discriminatory on their face, or it may involve rules, practices or procedures that appear neutral, but disadvantage certain groups of people on the basis of one of the characteristics identified in the Code. Discrimination, however, requires more than there being a distinction in how people are treated; the distinction must have an arbitrary impact due to the identified characteristic. Even if there are many factors affecting a decision or action, if a discriminatory consideration is one factor that is a violation of this policy.

Harassment: means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. It can involve words or actions that are known or should be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning or unwelcome. Harassment occurs regardless of whether the vexatious comments or conduct are on the basis of a protected ground.

If a person does not explicitly object to harassing behaviour, or appears to be going along with it, this does not mean that the behaviour is acceptable. The behaviour could still be considered harassment.

Sexual and gender-based harassment: Sexual harassment is a particular type of harassment and discriminatory conduct that also cannot be tolerated. Sexual harassment may take a variety of forms, such as:

  • Gender-related comments about a person’s physical characteristics or mannerisms
  • Paternalism based on gender which a person feels undermines his or her self-respect or position of responsibility
  • Unwelcome physical contact
  • Suggestive or offensive remarks or innuendoes about members of a specific gender
  • Propositions of physical intimacy
  • Gender-related verbal abuse, threats or taunting
  • Leering or inappropriate staring
  • Bragging about sexual prowess or questions or discussions about sexual activities
  • Offensive jokes or comments of a sexual nature about an employee or client
  • Rough and vulgar humour or language related to gender
  • Display of sexually offensive pictures, graffiti or other materials including through electronic means
  • Derogatory or offensive comments or gestures relating to a person’s sexual identity, sexual orientation or sexual preference

Sexual solicitation: unwanted sexual solicitations or advances by any person who is in a position to grant or deny a benefit to the recipient of the solicitation or advance is prohibited. This includes managers and supervisors, as well as co-workers where one person is in a position to grant or deny a benefit to the other. Reprisals for rejecting such advances or solicitations are also not permissible.

Poisoned environment: a poisoned environment is created by comments or conduct (including comments or conduct that are condoned or allowed to continue when brought to the attention of management) that create a discriminatory work environment. The comments or conduct need not be directed at a specific person, and may be from any person, regardless of position or status. A single comment or action, if sufficiently serious, may create a poisoned environment.

Annual Review

On at least an annual basis, a member of VIVA!’s Board of Directors (“Board”), chosen by the Chairperson, will review this policy to ensure that it continues to adhere to all relevant legislation.  The Board will review the recommendation(s) and decide on policy changes.

Roles and responsibilities

All persons affiliated with VIVA! including choristers, volunteers and employees  are expected to uphold and abide by this policy, by refraining from any form of sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination, and by cooperating fully in any investigation of a sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination complaint.

The provisions of this policy and procedure in no way affect the right of any person to exercise his or her rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Practices

In cases where VIVA! staff or volunteers are working with youth, including organized trips and social activities, staff and volunteers are strongly encouraged to have a minimum of two staff/volunteers around youth where practical.

All prospective staff and volunteers working with children/youth are required to submit written application forms.

All staff and volunteers working with children/youth are required to produce evidence of a clear police check to the General Manager, on an annual basis.  Proof that an employee or volunteer is a current member of a profession which requires police checks will satisfy this requirement.

All potential new staff and volunteers working with children/youth who are new to VIVA! will be subjected to a reference check with a minimum of two references.

Volunteers working with children/youth, all staff, Board members and choristers are required to acknowledge and abide by the current VIVA! Sexual Misconduct Policy. This Sexual Misconduct Policy will be reviewed with staff at each Fall annual Staff meeting, and each will be asked to acknowledge their awareness of this Sexual Misconduct Policy on their respective Staff Agreements.

Protection of persons bringing complaints forward.

A person who believes that he or she has been subjected to reprisal should be able to file a complaint under the procedure.

Every person has a right to claim and enforce their right to a harassment and discrimination-free  environment, without sexual misconduct. No person shall be negatively treated for bringing forward a complaint in good faith, providing information related to a complaint, or helping to resolve a complaint. It is a violation of VIVA! policy to discipline or punish a person because they have brought forward a complaint in good faith, provided information related to a complaint, or otherwise been involved in the complaint resolution process. Reprisal may be the subject of a complaint under this procedure, and persons engaging in reprisal are subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.

Procedures for resolving complaints

Whenever possible or appropriate in the circumstances, an adult person who is experiencing sexual misconduct or harassment (complainant) should try to address the conduct in question with the person who they believe has engaged in that conduct. Complainants are encouraged to explain to the person who is harassing them or discriminating against them that the conduct is unwelcome. However, complainants are not obliged to raise the concern directly with the other person or persons. Complainants are not expected to have to direct interaction with that person if they believe that addressing the person responsible could lead to an escalation or continuation of the misconduct, harassment or discrimination or to safety risks.

If the complainant does not want to or feels they cannot do so, the complainant is encouraged to approach either the General Manager, a staff member or a member of the Board, with the concern. If the complaint is directed at the General Manager, the complainant should approach a member of the Board directly.

Attached to this Policy is a list of the current General Manager, Artistic Director and Board of Directors, with contact information.  It shall be updated from time to time to be current.

Child and youth who are experiencing sexual misconduct or harassment are not expected engage the alleged abuser or harasser, but should rather go directly to the General Manager or other VIVA! Staff, volunteer or chorister in which latter case, the recipient of the information should be relayed immediately to the General Manager.

In the event a member of VIVA! Witnesses behaviour or is informed of behaviour relating to a child or youth member of VIVA! That may violate this policy, that member should inform the General Manager or another adult member of VIVA! Staff immediately.

In the event the complainant is at risk of ongoing sexual misconduct or abuse that is placing her/him in danger, and the complainant is 16 or under, any VIVA! Staff member or Director, upon being apprised of the information giving rise to a reasonable concern, shall contact the appropriate Children’s Aid Society in the jurisdiction in which the alleged sexual misconduct or other abuse is occurring.  This report will not replace the procedure below, except to the extent that any action by VIVA! should not interfere with ongoing active external investigations by responsible authorities such as the responsible Children’s Aid Society or police authority.

The Board will determine the appropriate Staff or Board member who will lead and be responsible for conducting the investigation. Ideally, the Staff or Board member should have a legal or human resources background with experience conducting such investigations. The Board may choose to retain external counsel or a neutral third party to conduct the investigation on their behalf and provide a recommendation to the Board.

In either case, the complainant will be asked either to write down a description of the complaint or provide it to the person whom they approach, or provide the description to that person orally, and that the person will write it down. The description should include details of:

  • What happened – a description of the events or situation  When it happened – dates and times of the events or incidents  Where it happened
  • Who saw it happen –names of witnesses, if any and their actions at the time of disclosure.

The person receiving the complaint will notify the person(s) who is the subject of the complaint and provide that person(s) with a copy of the written complaint.

Complainants and persons who are the subject of complaints are entitled to seek representation of their choice, including legal counsel, during the complaints process, at their own expense.

If necessary, the complainant or the person who is the subject of the complaint will be placed on a paid leave of absence. The decision will be made on a case-by-case basis and will reflect the principle that the complainant will not be penalized for making the complaint in good faith.

Any investigation into a complaint will include the following steps, where possible:

  • an interview with the complainant, which interview will be recorded or documented;
  • an interview with the person(s) alleged to have engaged in the conduct that is the subject of the complaint, which interview will be recorded or documented;
  • interview(s) with any witnesses who are identified as likely having relevant information to provide, which interviews(s) will be recorded or documented;
  • collection and review of any possibly relevant documents; and
  • any other steps the investigator(s) deems relevant to the investigation of the complaint.

The investigator is responsible for ensuring a thorough, fair and impartial investigation of the allegations in the complaint. The investigator will prepare a written report summarizing the allegations and the investigation results.

Any staff or members of the Board involved in receiving or investigating complaints, including those interviewed during the investigation, will protect the confidentiality and privacy of persons involved in a complaint, subject to the requirements of a fair and thorough investigation and resolution process.

ORGANIZATION will take all reasonable steps to act as quickly as possible to investigate and respond to complaints. It is expected that any investigation will generally be completed within 90 days or less from the date on which the complaint was made, unless there are extenuating circumstances (i.e. illness, complex investigation) warranting a longer investigation.

The results of any investigation will be provided to the Board, in confidence.  A Board member who is the subject of this complaint must excuse him/herself from all such discussions. The Board, in consultation with the General Manager and Artistic Director , if they were not the subject of the complaint, shall decide, based on the findings of the investigator, whether the policy has been violated and, if so, whether to impose sanctions or corrective action on the person who was the subject of the complaint.

Within 20 days of the investigation being completed, the complainant and the person whose conduct is the subject of the complaint will be provided with a copy of the investigator’s report and the decision regarding the outcomes of the investigation.

In cases of a finding of sexual misconduct or harassment, if a member is required to pay fees for participating and, because of harassing behaviour, drops out of the VIVA! program, the participant may be entitled to a prorated refund of such fees at the discretion of the Board.

The General Manager will keep the following records of the complaint and investigation for a period of at least two years:

  • a copy of the complaint or details about the incident;
  • a record of the investigation including notes;
  • a copy of the investigation report (if any);
  • a summary of the results of the investigation; and
  • a copy of any corrective action taken to address the complaint or incident.

All records of the investigation will be kept confidential and retained separately from personnel files in a secure location. The investigation documents, other than the report and findings, should not be disclosed unless required by law. The report and findings may be disclosed where necessary to investigate a further incident or complaint under this policy, whether involving the same individuals or not, to determine appropriate future discipline of anyone involved in the complaint or otherwise as required by law.

Any case of sexual misconduct or other criminal activity regarding a minor will be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Where the harassment relates to an identified ground under the Code, the complainant will be reminded that s/he can file a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Complaints from adults must be brought forward within two years of the last incident that they concern.  Complaints from children and youth should be brought within one year from their 18th birthday, or within one year of leaving VIVA! whichever event occurs later.

Where any provision of this Policy is inconsistent with the applicable law, the law shall prevail to the extent of that inconsistency, and the balance of the Policy remains in force.

In the event of a dispute arising out of the application or interpretation of this Policy, the laws of the province of Ontario will apply to this Policy.

Approved by VIVA! Board of Directors
May, 2017