Any Unwanted Sexual Behaviour
Sexual harassment is any unwanted comment, gesture, or action that is sexual in nature (aside from unwanted touching of sexual body parts, which is sexual assault), that makes someone feel afraid, embarrassed, uncomfortable or ashamed. The intention of the person doing the action doesn’t matter, it’s the negative impact the action has that makes something sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can include:
Just like any other form of sexual violence, sexual harassment has the potential to be traumatizing for the people who experience it. If you are ever made to feel unsafe, unwelcome, embarrassed, or uncomfortable due to your gender or gender expression, sexual orientation, body, or sexual history, know that what has happened to you is not your fault.
Reporting sexual harassment
It’s always your choice whether or not to report your experiences of sexual harassment. Even though most sexual harassment is not chargeable under the Criminal Code of Canada, you still have options if you feel that reporting is the right choice for you.
Workplace management and/or human resources
Employers are legally obligated to have a sexual harassment policy in place and must investigate any incident of harassment or violence. Reporting to your workplace management or human resources is often a first step toward reporting to Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and/or the Alberta Human Rights Commission. If you are in a unionized workplace, you can also reach out for support from your union.
You can file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) if you feel that your workplace, working conditions, prospects for promotions or earnings, living accommodations, or access to public services are being affected by sexual harassment.
A complaint must be made to AHRC within one year after the alleged incident of discrimination. The one-year period starts the day after the date on which the incident occurred.
To learn more, view the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Sexual Harassment Info Sheet.
Though most sexual harassment is not considered a criminal offense in Canada, you may still have the option to pursue a legal response through a civil lawsuit. In civil lawsuits, there is a lower threshold for evidence than criminal court.
Learn more about civil law remedies and get legal help at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta website.