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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:

Touching of non-sexual body parts (e.g. unwanted: massage, handholding, light grazing touches etc.)
Pressing for sexual activity, including sexual touching of non-sexual body parts
Calling someone sexual names
Sexual street harassment (e.g., cat calling, whistling)
Cornering, standing too close, blocking doorways
Obscene t-shirts, hats, pins
Obscene language or jokes
Unwanted discussion of sexual topics
Repeatedly asking someone to go out on a date or be in a relationship
Unwanted sexual texts or emails
Unwanted sexual comments directed toward or about someone else on social media
Exposing someone to pornographic material
Sexual gestures
Spreading sexual rumours
Embarrassing someone using sexual comments
Exposing oneself
Stalking

Types of sexual harassment

Physical
(touching)

Following, stalking
Cornering, blocking, standing too close
Touching when it is not necessary

Verbal
(using words)

Talking about a person’s body, clothing, sexual orientation
Continuing to ask for a date or sex after someone refused
Pressuring someone for sexual activity

Visual
(using gestures or body language)

Making rude noises or crude gestures
Exposing or touching genitals (including public masturbation)
Taking photos of a person without their consent
Staring, leering (looking at someone in an unpleasant sexual way)

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. 

Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S)

If you feel your workplace is not responding adequately to your report, you may elevate it to OH&S. There is no time limit on reporting to OH&S. 

Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRS)

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 

Civil lawsuit

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 getting legal help on the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta website. 

Get support

The Workers’ Resource Centre 

http://www.helpwrc.org/
403.264.8100
Info@helpwrc.org 

  • Free legal education seminars
  • Free intake & case management
  • Free independent legal advice

Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre 

https://www.aclrc.com/ 
403.220.2505 
aclrc@ucalgary.ca 

  • Free legal education & information
  • Answers questions from survivors

Centre for Public Legal Education 

Alberta Human Rights Commission Confidential Inquiry Line 

780.427.7661
AHRC.Registrar@gov.ab.ca 

  • Free confidential information

For information & emotional support, please call

SACE Support & Information Line
available from 9am – 9pm daily 

Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence
available from 9am – 9pm daily 

Additional resources

#MomentsMatter

is a province-wide campaign that celebrates Alberta leaders who are building positive and respectful workplace cultures that promote health and safety – and help stop sexual harassment.

Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA)

in collaboration with SACE and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northern Alberta, have created a tip sheet on Sexual Violence in the Workplace.

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