‘This will always be a fight’: Women push for changes to Saskatchewan labor laws


After years of dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, Ariana Donovan has created an online whispering network for people who have had similar experiences.

Donovan, a model based in Regina, says she wants to help others know who they should avoid in the industry.

“Over the years, there was a time when I’d been dressed up under my armpits and had 50-year-old men tell me how sexy I was. It was disgusting,” Donovan said.

As stories of sexual harassment and violence went viral on the private Facebook group she created, Donovan says she realized more needed to be done.

“It really upsets me that, even though this is a big issue, nobody’s really doing anything.”

Donovan is one of a number of women who have lobbied the Saskatchewan Party government to include sexual harassment in the province’s employment law.

Last week, the government proposed to do just that by introducing legislation to make it clear that any unwelcome act of a sexual nature constitutes harassment.

The amendment also includes independent contractors, students and volunteers as well as Uber drivers, musicians, models and performing arts activists.

If passed, Saskatchewan would become one of only five provinces to specifically address sexual harassment in legislation. The others are Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

“If they have a complaint, they will be able to go to labor relations and safety at work, who will hand that over to someone and come in and be able to issue a binding order against the employer.” workers, could charge the employer, and they said Labor Secretary Don Morgan.

“They should be able to have the full range of remedies under our law.”

Theresa Sokyrka, a Saskatoon-based singer-songwriter who rose to fame after winning runner-up on the reality TV show “Canadian Idol”, has started a petition to campaign for change. labor law.

She said the new law would empower more women.

“We no longer have to worry about the gigs we get into,” says Sokyrka.

She said she first experienced sexual violence at work when she was underage and cleared tables at a restaurant. She was caught.

Sokyrka says: “Every situation in every restaurant I’ve worked at has had some sort of situation… I could write a whole book about it.

“If you move into a management position … they might as well fire you right now, because you’re not interesting with how the whole industry works. So you’re used to being silenced. daily.”

A recent survey by the Toronto Women Abuse Council found that women and girls are afraid to report sexual harassment or violence in the workplace for reasons including discrimination, layoffs, impact on their careers, or backlash from perpetrators.

While Donovan and Sokyrka say they are happy that the welcome changes are coming in Saskatchewan, they want the law to do more. They want “sexual violence” embedded in its language and promise to support victims’ mental health.

“In the modeling industry … minors are manipulated a lot. Having the support and resources available to them is very important,” says Donovan. “It shouldn’t be just, ‘This happened, I’m sorry. Here’s what you can do to move on.” It must be a real healing process. “

While both women continue to campaign for safe workplaces, they hope that if more people continue to come forward with stories, it will lead to further changes.

“It’s like when banana clips came out in the ’80s,” says Sokyrka. Saskatchewan had them in the ’90s. We’re a bit behind here,” says Sokyrka, adding that she’s less afraid to speak up because she’s in her 40s.

“We need only look at our female ancestors, and all the women who have resisted patriarchy, and find solace that this will always be a fight we must speak up for. his voice.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 27, 2021.

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