Jamaias DaCosta, the host of two shows on campus radio station CIUT 89.5 FM, is alleging that the station mishandled a sexual harassment complaint she made against another host. Anne Boucher and Stuart Norton, two former University of Toronto Students’ Union student appointees on the station’s Board of Directors who resigned last week, are joining her in criticism of the station’s grievance process.
They point to an unresolved sexual harassment complaint filed by DaCosta in November 2017 as a symptom of what they see as a problematic grievance process currently in place at the station. DaCosta is the host of the CIUT shows The Vibe Collective and Indigenous Waves. She was suspended from the station on February 16 for criticizing it on air and commenting on the media coverage of the death of Colten Boushie and the trial of his killer, Gerald Stanley.
The sexual harassment complaint
DaCosta’s complaint was made against another CIUT host who has since been suspended from the station. DaCosta alleges that the accused behaved inappropriately toward her, including touching her, coming into the studio drunk, and calling her names like ‘sugar.’
According to DaCosta, CIUT President Steve Fruitman breached her confidentiality when an email he sent to her and the accused explicitly named her as the complainant. The email was sent as an update on the investigation, and it stated, “Thank you both for being patient while we wound our way through the complexity of dealing with the allegation forwarded to the management of the radio station by volunteer Jamaias DaCosta against [the accused], another volunteer with CIUT-FM.”
“I felt very compromised,” said DaCosta. “I felt very unsafe.”
Boucher said DaCosta’s confidentiality was further breached when she was named as the complainant in the agenda for the January Board of Directors meeting. “To think that confidential matters can be outlined in an agenda, an agenda that should be made accessible to the membership, shows both disregard for her privacy and shows that visibility & engagement are not things they’re used to,” wrote Boucher.
Boucher claims that sharing DaCosta’s identity with the accused and circulating her identity and that of the accused to the Board of Directors breached a clause in the CIUT sexual harassment policy titled “Confidentiality.” The clause states that CIUT “will not disclose any information about a complaint except as necessary to investigate the complaint or to take disciplinary action, or as required by law.”
When asked about this allegation, Fruitman said, “There’s been no breach from our side. No members have seen our agendas. No members have seen our minutes.”
Boucher is also dissatisfied with the amount of time it has taken to process the issue. “These are things that, when they happen, you’re dealing with them immediately,” said Boucher. “This happened in November and I can say that it’s still going on.”
Another sexual harassment clause, titled “Time Limits,” states that management “has a responsibility to make sure harassment ends as soon as they become aware of it. Complaints will be resolved as quickly as possible, ideally within one month of being made.” The complaint was lodged four months ago.
Fruitman said that the clause “doesn’t mean you have to stop all investigations after a month because it’s a month now, you can’t go on. That’s just something in the policy that you try to uphold, but it’s not a breach.” Fruitman also said that the station acted immediately to begin addressing the situation. “As soon as we got the complaint, we went to… the [Hart House] Warden and asked him what we should do, and he said to suspend [the accused] in a non-punitive suspension.”
“I think it’s still punitive because the guy can’t do the show, but [it’s] officially non-punitive pending the outcome of an investigation,” continued Fruitman. He declined to confirm whether the investigation was still ongoing, but then noted that “the fact that it’s been taking a long time” has been the “main complaint” so far. The accused confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.
Boucher also criticized the policy, which is two and a half pages long, for being “really out of date.” She said that “it’s sad, but it’s so funny at the same time that this is what their policy is.”
Fruitman acknowledged that the policy needs “improvement,” but says that most of CIUT’s policies “are good for almost forever.”
“They’re just basic rules we’ve always had, since 1988.”
DaCosta’s suspension from the station
DaCosta said that she decided to speak out about her complaint case after she was suspended from volunteer and on-air privileges on the station on February 16. She was suspended after criticizing the station on-air, following a warning from CIUT management regarding her comments on what she called ‘skewed’ media coverage of the death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man in Saskatchewan, and the acquittal of his killer, Gerald Stanley.
In a warning email that station manager Ken Stowar sent to DaCosta, he said that the station took issue with a comment she made on air during a conversation addressing the deaths of Boushie and an Indigenous girl named Tina Fontaine. On air, DaCosta had said, “It’s been horrific watching the Canadian media vilify these young ones and scrutinize them while really creating these sympathetic narratives for their killers, especially for the killer of Boushie.”
Stowar’s email noted, “The comment was such that CIUT-FM could be held criminally responsible for interfering with the rights of an individual for a fair trial.” Stowar said that the station would continue to investigate the potential impact of DaCosta’s commentary, especially if a formal complaint were lodged against CIUT. Stowar warned her that her commentary could be actionable under the Criminal Code of Canada.
According to her suspension email, however, DaCosta was suspended “due to disparaging comments made on air and online… about CIUT and its board of directors.”
DaCosta said that Stowar “didn’t mention anything about [her] commentary [on CIUT] in the warning,” only the Boushie and Fontaine comments.
Though she says the specific offending comments were not made clear to her, DaCosta criticized CIUT on the same show as the one containing her comments on Boushie and Fontaine. “A lot of people think [that] CIUT is great and [that] CIUT is fantastic for so many reasons, but CIUT needs a lot of work when it comes to sharing safe space for community. And I just need to take a second to put CIUT on blast,” she had said on air. “If it’s not a safe space for those people in the community, then it’s not doing its job as a community radio station.”
DaCosta made these comments about the station in response to an unknown person putting a picture of U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson that said “you can fix yourself,” on her desktop.
DaCosta said that she has not received any further information from CIUT regarding her situation.
“I’m being censored as an Indigenous person at the station,” she said. “There is no basis for… Ken Stowar’s suspension of me.” Stowar did not respond to The Varsity’s questions about the rationale for DaCosta’s suspension.
Norton said that it is important for DaCosta to receive due process for her suspension. “Regardless of the situations of alleged misconduct according to CIUT, I think she is entitled to a process of investigation that is accountable and transparent,” he said. “If there [are] grounds that can be found for discipline or follow-up, again you can only know that through investigation and checking all your bases.”
Fruitman declined to comment on DaCosta’s suspension, but he said that “the grievance process is probably a really important thing for us.”
“I don’t think there’s much in the way of process in the current one other than to complain to the board and see what happens,” said Fruitman. “Is our process good? Well, I think it could be a lot better.”