by Stacy Dunn
For over a year now, the RISE program has provided free legal resources and support to people who have experienced sexual violence or workplace sexual harassment.
The program offers up to four hours of free advice from a lawyer, support to navigate the justice system, and referrals to other community support services.
RISE is offered through Community Legal Information (CLI), a registered charity that helps PEI residents understand the law and navigate the justice system. CLI provides a safe, judgment-free way to get current legal information on many aspects of the law, in plain language.
Their latest publication is called Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment: A Guide for Employees. RISE Program Manager Cassandra Goodwin says the publication will help raise awareness and offer options to address workplace sexual harassment on PEI. Copies of this publication are available in English, French, and six non-official languages.
“Since July 1, 2020, the law on PEI has stated all workplaces on PEI are required to have a workplace sexual harassment policy,” she says. “The publication is an overview of what someone can do if they experience workplace sexual harassment, information for bystanders on what they can do if they witness harassment, and tips on prevention.”
RISE prepared this publication with help from Workers’ Compensation Board of PEI, Employment Standards, Victim Services, Human Rights Commission, PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, and lawyers.
“We are grateful to our community partners for ensuring our information is accurate,” she says. “Career Development Services is also an important community support. Depending on the situation, the person may not want to continue in the sector they work in and may need help choosing a new career path.”
About 10 lawyers lend their services to the program. In turn, RISE has provided them with trauma-informed training. “This training is required for lawyers working with the RISE program, and is also offered to law students and any other interested stakeholders or community partners,” Cassandra says.
Since the start of the program, RISE has seen an increase in the number of inquiries from friends of victims and community partners. “People can contact us by phone, text, email, or live chat via our website.
“We consistently check in with our clients to see how they are doing and remind them of their legal and administrative options and community supports. We have about 62 clients to date, the majority of which contact us about experiences that happened over a year ago. The program is open to survivors of historical or more recent sexual violence, including workplace harassment.”
Sarah Dennis is the program’s Legal Navigator who handles the initial contact and intake of clients to RISE. Her background is in legal administration and she has worked in law offices and non-profits for seven years.
“RISE helps by providing information that is accurate and easy to understand. We offer a safe space for people to both address workplace sexual harassment if it has occurred, and to prevent it in the future.”
RISE offers services in French and English.
Cassandra, who has been with RISE since January 2021, promotes the program in the community and maintains relationships with current and potential partners. Previously, she ran a naturopathic medicine practice for five years.
“When the pandemic happened, my priorities changed, and this opportunity opened up. I think my entrepreneurial and public speaking skills and volunteer experience working on policy with non-profits fit well with this team. It has been eye-opening to see the frequency of workplace sexual harassment and sexual violence happening on PEI.”
The RISE Program is funded in part by Justice Canada and the PEI Department of Justice and Public Safety.
The PEI Human Rights Commission’s SHIFT project provides education and resources on workplace sexual harassment to employers and employees. They have an online survey at www.peihumanrights.ca gauging employers and employees’ awareness or experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace. Results of the survey will be shared sometime this fall.
“Everyone deserves a safe workplace,” says Laura K. Bird, Project Manager. “Just like having First Aid courses, training in the prevention and response to workplace sexual harassment will create safer spaces for all.”
For more information on the SHIFT Project, call 902-368-4180 or email [email protected]
The SHIFT Project is an initiative of the PEI Human Rights Commission, with funding from Justice Canada.