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Foreign correspondents in China say harassment, intimidation by authorities ramping up

Unwanted attention of authorities and obstruction on the job is just part of the territory for many foreign correspondents working in China.

Steven Lee Myers, Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times, wrote about one such experience when he was detained for 17 hours in Sichuan province, along with French photographer Gilles Sabrié.

Lee Myers was there in February 2018, to write about Tibetan holiday traditions, when a police officer appeared at a temple they had visited and began questioning him without giving any explanation about what they’d done wrong. As a result, he ended up writing about the hours he spent in custody.

He wrote in his piece, “To be clear, journalists face far worse threats and abuse in China and elsewhere.”

In the past year, journalists have faced far worse. And Lee Myers is one of several caught out by an apparent clampdown on media freedom in China.

A report released on Monday by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) confirms such fears among foreign journalists.

Pandemic led to tit-for-tat expulsions

Its annual survey on media freedom in 2020 found foreign journalists have been singled out in the way they’ve been treated under COVID-19 restrictions, in the name of public health. The report also accused Chinese authorities of dramatically stepping up efforts to frustrate the work of journalists, and to harass and intimidate them, by, for example, conducting both physical and electronic surveillance.

Lee Myers is one of 18 American journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post who were kicked out of the country in March 2020, as tensions flared between Beijing and Washington over the coronavirus pandemic.

Steven Lee Myers, a correspondent for the New York Times, is shown in China in March 2020. He was one of 18 American journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post who were expelled from the country last March after the Trump administration imposed a limit on visas for Chinese state-owned media operating in the U.S. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

“In the middle of a pandemic, we were given 10 days to pack up and leave,” he said in an interview over Skype.

He’s now based in Seoul, still covering the China beat. His fellow correspondents at the Times who were in Beijing have dispersed to other regions, including Singapore, Sydney and Taiwan, to continue reporting on the world’s second-biggest superpower.

The expulsions were triggered when the Trump administration decided to limit to 100 the number of Chinese journalists working in the United States for five state-owned media outlets, effectively forcing about 60 of them to leave.

China says its move was a necessary response to the oppression its media organizations experienced in the U.S.

“They couched it as being reciprocal, but obviously they targeted it at news organizations they particularly didn’t like,” Lee Myers said.

An opinion article published in the early days of the pandemic by the Wall Street Journal, entitled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” is known to have enraged Chinese officials and prompted criticism on social media and from some academics. Following its publication in February 2020, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the newspaper “must be held responsible for what it has done.”

Figures provided by the FCCC show that there are now just 39 accredited American journalists working in China. Before last March’s expulsions, there were roughly 60, according to an estimate provided by one of the club’s board members.

But the deteriorating environment for reporters in China goes well beyond the diplomatic feud between Washington and Beijing — and the expulsion of journalists.

‘Strict controls’ on journalists: report

In its report — based on 150 responses to a survey conducted via email of correspondents and interviews with bureau chiefs — the FCCC said that for the third year in a row, none of the journalists said that working conditions had improved.

It also said “all arms of state power … were used to harass and intimidate journalists” and that “new surveillance systems and strict controls on movement — implemented for public health reasons — have been used to limit foreign journalists.”

Harassment of journalists in Xinjiang province was especially tense. The report said correspondents were visibly followed by police or state security agents, asked to delete data from their devices and prevented from talking to people.

A police officer stands near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, on Sept. 4, 2018. Journalists have faced harassment in the region, where China is accused of incarcerating as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The Globe and Mail’s Canadian correspondent in China, Nathan VanderKlippe, was among those who shared their experience of operating in the region, where China is accused of incarcerating as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim:

“Followed from airports on arrival. Shoved and grabbed by people who refused to identify themselves. Placed under such close surveillance that interviews were impossible,” the report quotes him as saying.

It’s in stark contrast to the message China is delivering about allowing outsiders to come and see for themselves what’s happening in the northwest region. On Tuesday, at a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, China’s delegate, Jiang Duan, said that “the door to Xinjiang is always open.”

Also notable, according to the report, is that authorities in China either delayed the renewal of press cards or refused altogether to issue the credentials, which are required for journalists to work in the country. 

Security personnel stop journalists at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, during a visit by the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease, on Jan. 31. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

VanderKlippe was one of those particularly hard hit, as relations between Ottawa and Beijing tumbled over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018, and the subsequent detention in China of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor:

“I received seven consecutive one-month visas, followed by a three month-visa,” he says in the report.

Singapore journalist Chun Han Wong of the Wall Street Journal was among those whose press credentials were not renewed, and German photographer Katharina Hesse was one of several who had their visa applications for re-entry denied.

‘They don’t need the foreign media as much’

One major frustration faced by correspondents came when China eased cross-border COVID-19 travel restrictions and began allowing foreign nationals with Chinese residence permits who had been locked out to return. Journalists were not included among those entitled to relaxed visa rules. The same does not apply to either Chinese nationals or the majority of other foreigners who reside in China.

“The overall view is … that they don’t need the foreign media as much,” said Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre and a former China correspondent for the Washington Post.

Police face journalists outside a police station where media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Apple Daily, was held after his arrest by the national security unit in Hong Kong, on Aug. 12, 2020. (Lam Yik/Reuters)

Richburg, who’s also president of the Hong Kong chapter of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, said when he was covering China in the 1990s, authorities in Beijing wanted more foreign journalists in the country because “it made them feel like we were taking them seriously as a big power.”

But he said he now senses that authorities are much more interested in control than ever before. Tightening control over the media has been a feature of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership, and from the start of China’s coronavirus outbreak, it appears the government has become more intolerant of criticism.

The result of these measures is the largest expulsion of foreign journalists from China since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre more than three decades ago, according to the FCCC board member, who said before last year, only about 12 foreign journalists were expelled since 1989.

Some reports have suggested Beijing is retaliating against negative coverage of the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan — where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in December 2019 — and other sensitive topics. They include the country’s Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, the sovereignty of Tibet and a new national security law in Hong Kong that was imposed by Beijing.

‘Notable incidents’ include harassment, assault

The FCCC report includes roughly a dozen “notable incidents” of foreign journalists facing everything from harassment and intimidation to assault and destruction of property in 2020.

“In April, a correspondent for a U.K. news organization was accosted by more than a dozen plainclothes people outside a cemetery in Wuhan, who dragged her backward several metres as she tried to leave. The men grabbed her devices and checked her passport, refusing to return any of the items,” says one account.

WATCH | China jails citizen-journalist who captured early days of pandemic:

China has sentenced citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan to four and a half years behind bars for her reporting on the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, which painted a different picture than the government wanted. 2:00

The report also outlines an incident in September involving Alice Su of the Los Angeles Times. It says she “was surrounded by plainclothes men outside a school in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, who forced her to a police station,” and she was denied requests to call the U.S. Embassy. “When she tried to reach for her phone, an officer put his hands around her throat and locked her in a soundproof cell for an hour,” where she was interrogated.

On Monday, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Wang Wenbin, said the findings detailed in the FCCC’s report were “baseless.”

“We always welcome media and foreign journalists from all countries to cover news in China according to the law,” he said.

Like Canada and the U.S., Australia is mired in a bitter feud with Beijing, prompted by Canberra’s calls for a probe into the origins of the global pandemic. Australians have been embroiled in some of the most alarming incidents related to journalists in the last year.

In September, Bill Birtles of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Michael Smith, a correspondent for the Australian Financial Review, were temporarily barred from leaving the country, allegedly for national security reasons. They were only permitted to go after a diplomatic standoff.

Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was the anchor for state broadcaster CGTN, is shown in Beijing in this image taken from undated video footage. She was arrested in September and charged with supplying state secrets overseas. (Australia Global Alumni-Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Reuters)

Another Australian, Cheng Lei, an anchor for state broadcaster CGTN, was arrested in September and charged with supplying state secrets overseas.

But foreign correspondents aren’t the only ones in the firing line. Chinese staff working for international media faced substantial pressure over their work. For example, Haze Fan, a journalist for Bloomberg News, was detained in December. No details have been provided on where she is or why she’s been detained.

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New York governor admits to ‘insensitive’ conduct amid calls for sexual harassment investigation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.

He made the comments after New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.

Cuomo’s legal counsel said the governor would back a plan to appoint an outside lawyer as a special independent deputy attorney general.

Democrats statewide abandoning Cuomo

Top Democrats statewide appeared to be abandoning Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.

James, a Democrat who at times has been allied with Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.

Over several hours Sunday, she and other leading party officials rejected two proposals by the governor that they said could potentially have limited the independence of the investigation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference in New York City in August 2020. (Kathy Willens/The Associated Press)

Under his first plan, announced Saturday evening, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behaviour. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate the claims and issue a public report.

James said neither plan went far enough.

“I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up quickly behind James.

The state legislature’s two top leaders, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both said they wanted her to handle the investigation. New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and and Kirsten Gillibrand, both said an independent investigation was essential.

“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand said.

2 former aides allege harassment

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ,”There should be an independent review looking into these allegations.” She said that’s something President Joe Biden supports “and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

The calls for an investigation into Cuomo’s workplace behaviour intensified after a second former employee of his administration went public Saturday with claims she had been harassed.

Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair.

Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments about her appearance.

Cuomo, 63, said in a statement Saturday he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.

The furor over the sexual harassment allegations comes amid a new round of criticism over his leadership style and actions his administration took to protect his reputation as an early leader in the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.

Lindsey Boylan attends an event in New York City in June 2019. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women’s Forum of New York)

Cuomo had won praise as a strong hand at the helm during last spring’s crisis of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. His book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was published in October.

But in recent weeks his administration was forced to revise its count of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes following criticism that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that some of his administration’s policies had made the situation in the homes worse.

James fuelled some of that criticism by issuing a report that raised questions about whether the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.

Cuomo was also criticized after a state assembly member went public with a story of being politically threatened by Cuomo over comments he made to a newspaper about the governor’s coronavirus leadership. Cuomo said his comments were being mischaracterized.

Now, his support is eroding faster.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

A group of more than a dozen Democratic women in the state assembly said in a statement: “The Governor’s proposal to appoint someone who is not independently elected, has no subpoena authority, and no prosecutorial authority is inadequate.”

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New York governor accused of sexual harassment by 2nd former aide

A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who responded with a statement Saturday saying he never made advances toward her and never intended to be inappropriate.

Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the Democratic governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.

Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, recently accused Cuomo of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo denied the allegations.

Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”

He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.

“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

Cuomo, however, said he had authorized an outside review of Bennett’s allegations.

The governor’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, said that review would be conducted by a former federal judge, Barbara Jones.

“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements,” Cuomo said. “I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”

‘Horribly uncomfortable and scared’

Bennett told the Times that her most disturbing interaction with Cuomo happened last June 5 when she was alone with him in his Albany, N.Y., office. She said Cuomo started asking her about her personal life, her thoughts on romantic relationships, including whether age was a factor, and said he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.

Bennett said she also dodged a question from Cuomo about hugging by saying she missed hugging her parents. She said Cuomo never touched her.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June, she said she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.

Garvey acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett had been transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.

Bennett told the newspaper she eventually decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and “wanted to move on.”

The allegations did not result in any action taken against Cuomo at the time.

Jones, who will oversee the investigation, was appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. As a judge, she struck down a portion of the Defence of Marriage Act denying federal recognition of same-sex marriage in a ruling later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former U.S. federal judge Barbara Jones speaks during a news conference in New York City in September 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After retiring, she joined the law firm Bracewell LLP, where her work focuses on corporate compliance and investigations.

Her arbitration work included a 2014 decision throwing out Ray Rice’s suspension by the NFL for punching his fiance in an elevator in an attack recorded on video.

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Call for coaching codes of conduct after harassment allegations at UVic

Post-secondary institutions in British Columbia are being urged to create coaching codes of conduct after verbal abuse complaints were made against a rowing coach at the University of Victoria.

The school began developing a code following the allegations. But like many other colleges and universities in B.C., it responds to complaints using a campus-wide discrimination and harassment policy that doesn’t include language that is specific to sports.

Joanna Waterman, the mother of one of three rowers who complained about coach Barney Williams, said an adjudicator hired by the school found his behaviour didn’t breach the harassment policy but “may not meet a coach’s code of conduct” or “safe sport guidelines.”

“Your policy allows for a coach to lock our daughter in a small room … and aggressively berate and humiliate her until she was so scared she cried and bore her nails into her palms, drawing blood, to try to withstand the trauma,” Waterman wrote in a letter to the university’s president.

“Your policy allowed for him to publicly humiliate, fat shame and torment her about her mental health.”

The Canadian Press has not seen the adjudicator’s report. The complainants declined to share it after the university warned they may face disciplinary action if they breach confidentiality. They also say they fear compromising a separate, ongoing investigation by Rowing Canada.

The Canadian Press has previously reported allegations that Williams yelled at Waterman’s daughter Lily Copeland in a locked room until she cried and dug her nails into her hands, shouted at her in front of others, criticized her weight and made demeaning comments about her anxiety disorder.

Williams, who remains head coach of the women’s team, said this week that he still cannot comment on the allegations due to confidentiality.

He has previously said he regards coaching as a privilege and responsibility, and is committed to continued professional growth to help student athletes become the best version of themselves.

Several rowers coached by Williams, including four current or former members of the University of Victoria women’s team, have defended him as a dedicated and inspiring leader.

Athletics director Clint Hamilton said he expects the code of conduct will be in place by the fall and it will clearly state expectations for coaches and align with safe sport principles, which are widely recognized guidelines to prevent and respond to abuse.

Portrayed by some as ‘hiding the truth’

A university spokesman said he could not comment on the adjudicator’s report because the provincial privacy law, collective agreements and internal policies bar it from discussing confidential matters.

“These legal constraints continue to apply even if others attempt to characterize portions of confidential reports to support their point of view,” said Paul Marck.

The school’s limited ability to provide information publicly has been inaccurately portrayed by some as hiding the truth or supporting an abusive coaching culture, which is not the case, he added.

Of the 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C., 14 have competitive sports programs. Seven lack a coaching code of conduct. But even among the seven that have such a code, most don’t use it to judge complaints and instead rely on general policies that apply to all employees.

Paul Melia, president of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, said a code is important because over time certain behaviours become normalized within the culture of sports. A strong code clearly defines forms of mistreatment, sets penalties for violations and helps change the culture, he said.

“Workplace codes may be more general and not take into account some of the specific kinds of circumstances that might arise in sport,” he said.

The seven institutions that have coaching codes are Simon Fraser University, Langara College, Capilano University, College of the Rockies, Camosun College, Okanagan College and Vancouver Island University.

However, the way the codes are applied varies. Coaches at Okanagan are judged by the code if an athlete files a complaint, while coaches at Camosun are judged against workplace policies as well as standards set by their governing athletic associations.

At Vancouver Island University, athletes can raise issues about coaches to the athletics director, which are then judged against the code, but complaints about abuse, harassment or sexual misconduct are pursued under policies that aren’t sports-specific.

Similarly, students at the College of the Rockies can contact student affairs leadership about coaches but formal complaints are pursued under campus-wide policies.

Simon Fraser, Langara and Capilano did not respond when asked whether their codes are used to judge complaints. But all have broader policies on their websites where students experiencing mistreatment are directed.

Nearly all the schools that have codes are smaller institutions that belong to the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association, which mandated members to align with the federal government’s Safe Sport for All initiatives established last year.

The initiatives led by previous sports minister Kirsty Duncan include a confidential help line to provide advice on reporting abuse. Critics have argued it needs to be paired with an independent investigative body, since athletes are typically referred back to their sports organization.

Selkirk College, like the University of Victoria, says it’s working on a code.

The province’s largest university, the University of British Columbia, has a code for volunteer and seasonal coaches but not staff coaches, who instead must adhere to a respectful-environment statement for all employees.

The Advanced Education Ministry said it cannot direct schools to establish codes of conduct.

“It is outside the ministry’s legislative mandate to oversee the internal development of institutional policy and administrative processes,” it said, adding that by law the university or college president is responsible for staff conduct issues.

Coaches covered by provincial law

The national governing body for university sports, U Sports, also has not handed down any mandates on safe sports or codes of conduct. Spokesman John Bower said coaches are university employees and are covered by provincial law, labour policies and collective agreements in some cases.

“U Sports does promote safe sport while respecting the jurisdiction of our member institutions,” he said.

Doug White, a retired rowing coach who has led teams at the University of Victoria and at the national level, said he was disappointed by the school’s handling of complaints against Williams. He added it was “bizarre” that it did not have a coaching code of conduct.

“From my perspective, the university should be a leader in this field,” he said. “They should be leading, developing a system that would be free of abuse.”

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‘No evidence’ Kaillie Humphries suffered harassment from coach, Calgary judge hears

The investigation into Kaillie Humphries’ harassment complaint against her former coach and Bobsleigh Canada has been completed, with a finding that her allegations have not been substantiated, a Calgary judge heard in court Monday.

Humphries, 34, is suing Bobsleigh Canada for $ 45 million for blocking her release from the team and breaching their contract relating to athlete and coach code of conduct.

Lawyers for the athlete and Bobsleigh Canada appeared in a Calgary courtroom Monday morning for an injunction hearing.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist has asked the judge to order her release from this country’s team, which would allow her to compete for the United States. 

That decision will be made Tuesday at 9 a.m. MT by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Charlene Anderson.

‘They don’t want her’

Bobsleigh Canada lawyer Arif Chowdhury argued Humphries has received 15 years’ worth of mostly publicly funded training designed “to create international and Olympic champions.”

Chowdhury said a written release from Bobsleigh Canada is required, to prevent athletes from taking advantage of one country’s training program and competing for another. 

The governing body also suggested Humphries has not exhausted internal remedies and asked Anderson for a stay of proceedings, arguing the court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to hear this case. Chowdhury said Humphries must take her concerns to the Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) first.

But Jeffrey Rath, Humphries’ lawyer, says because her contract expired in June, those rules don’t apply. 

Competing for the U.S. is Humphries’ only option, Rath argued. 

“Bobsleigh Canada has made it clear they don’t want her to compete for them,” Rath told the judge.

Humphries ‘driven off’ team: lawyer

The two-time Olympic gold medallist is one of Canada’s most decorated athletes.

A year ago, Humphries filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada, alleging verbal and mental abuse from her former coach, Todd Hays, in the 2017-18 season. She now lives in the United States and wants to compete for that country.

According to her lawyer, Humphries was essentially “driven off” the Canadian bobsled team after filing the complaint. 

If Humphries is to compete for the United State Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF) in the 2019-20 season, she needs the release letter from Bobsleigh Canada and an acceptance letter from USBSF by Sept. 30. 

Punitive behaviours alleged

By allowing Hays’s abusive behaviour, the suit alleges he and Bobsleigh Canada were in breach of their contracts. 

Humphries has been waiting for more than a year for the national sport organization to complete its internal investigation.

In her statement of claim, Humphries says that after filing the complaint, Hays took actions to ensure she would not compete with Bobsleigh Canada. 

Humphries was not invited to training camps and was told that if she tried to compete for Canada, she’d be given an older sled that would not have been competitive or safe, according to the claim.

The document also claims other athletes were threatened with blacklisting if they worked with Humphries.

Humphries ‘has suffered and continues to suffer monetary damages in the form of loss of reputation, sponsorships, revenue opportunities including branding opportunities and economic losses,” reads the statement of claim.

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Danny Masterson, Church of Scientology Sued By Sexual Assault Accusers for Alleged Stalking & Harassment

Danny Masterson, Church of Scientology Sued By Sexual Assault Accusers for Alleged Stalking & Harassment | Entertainment Tonight

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Former Whitecaps player ‘optimistic’ after meeting about alleged harassment

A woman who spoke out about alleged harassment and bullying by a former coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps says she’s thankful and optimistic about potential change after a meeting with the club’s owners.

Ciara McCormack said last week’s meeting between herself, three former teammates and owners Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett was intense and emotional but respectful, and the players left feeling that their concerns had been heard.

McCormack published a blog post in February, alleging inappropriate behaviour by Bob Birarda when he was the head coach of the Whitecaps women’s team and Canada Soccer’s women’s under-20 talent pool in 2007 and 2008.

The post said neither Canada Soccer nor the Whitecaps adequately addressed or investigated her concerns, and more than a dozen other former players later came forward alleging they also witnessed or experienced abuse, harassment or bullying by the coach, who was dismissed by both organizations in Oct. 2008.

Birarda did not respond to a request for comment and the allegations have not been proven in court.

The Whitecaps issued an apology to former players earlier this month and the club has said an investigation will be done into actions taken in 2008, with results of the review being made public.

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Canadian paddler alleges he was victim of harassment

An emerging Canadian paddler says he was the victim of harassment by a teammate and was then ostracized from the national team after reporting it to officials, according to allegations in a lawsuit obtained exclusively by CBC Sports.

Philipe Turcanu, 19, is seeking more than a $ 500,000 in damages from Canoe Kayak Canada (CKC), the sport’s governing body, and fellow paddler Connor Fitzpatrick.

The Ottawa-area athlete claims he was the victim of “a pattern of harassment, bullying and demeaning treatment” by Fitzpatrick, and at one point “feared for his life” when his older teammate threatened him while holding a knife.

Turcanu further alleges he was subjected to “crude sexual humour and coercion,” in the 31-page statement of claim, filed in Ontario Superior Court. He claims CKC did nothing about Fitzpatrick’s behaviour.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Casey Wade, the CEO of CKC, said in a statement the organization “vigorously denies” any responsibility.

“CKC is committed to providing a safe sport environment for all participants,” Wade said. “We have policies and protocols in place to provide fair and robust reviews of all incidents that are reported to us.” 

He said CKC will not comment further “while the legal process is ongoing.” 

Fitzpatrick, from Dartmouth, N.S., was served with the lawsuit just before a race this past weekend in Montreal.

He has yet to file a statement of defence or respond to repeated requests for comment from CBC. But throughout a recent CKC disciplinary process, he rejected many of Turcanu’s allegations.

“I am extremely disappointed that a fellow athlete and training mate has gone to great lengths to fabricate, exaggerate and embellish facts in an effort to damage my reputation,” Fitzpatrick wrote in his submissions to the disciplinary panel, which have been viewed by CBC. 

Sharing an apartment  

The lawsuit describes Turcanu as a paddler with a bright future, whose “performance threshold” met the level for Olympic competition in 2020 and beyond. He finished sixth in a two-man event at 2018 U23 World Championships.

In November 2018, Turcanu, then 18, and Fitzpatrick shared an apartment while attending a CKC training camp in Florida.

He claims Fitzpatrick’s behaviour cost him a tutoring client — when he allegedly played pornography out loud while Turcanu was on a video call — and later pressured him for details about women he’d slept with.

Fitzpatrick then tracked down one of those women, whom Turcanu was dating, on social media and told her a false story about Turcanu visiting a strip club, according to the lawsuit.

Turcanu alleges CKC was aware of Fitzpatrick’s propensity for harassment, and says he took his concerns to senior members of the national team.

He claims the most serious incident occurred a few days later when Fitzpatrick, “enraged” after hearing of Turcanu’s complaints, used a knife to break into his room and threatened to “knock him the f–k out.”

Fitzpatrick “held up the knife” throughout the incident, according to the lawsuit.

“His behaviour was unpredictable and erratic,” the lawsuit says, and Turcanu “feared for his life.”

As a paddler, Turcanu met the level for Olympic competition, according to his lawsuit. (Submitted by Philipe Turcanu)

Fitzpatrick described the encounter quite differently in his submissions to CKC. He acknowledges that entering the room was “poor judgement” made in the “heat of the moment.”

But his use of what he describes as a butter knife was “irrelevant,” he said, because it was used as a key, not a weapon. 

“It could have just as well been a teaspoon,” he told the disciplinary panel. “At no time did I raise it, point it at [Turcanu] or make any threats.” 

Shortly after the incident, Turcanu contacted his father, who urged him to call the police. But in an interview with CBC Sports, Turcanu says he didn’t want to.

“I was really, really scared about what would actually happen to Connor,” Turcanu said. “I wouldn’t just be ruining this guy’s paddling career but I would actually be ruining the rest of his life.”

Instead, he sought refuge at the apartment of his coach, Andreas Dittmer, who, Turcanu says, attempted an informal face-to-face mediation the next day, which Turcanu secretly recorded.

The meeting was unsuccessful, Turcanu says, because seeing Fitzpatrick “was distressing and traumatic.” He abruptly left the camp and flew back to Ottawa.

‘Major infractions’

Turcanu filed a complaint with CKC shortly after, and says he trusted officials would take steps to address Fitzpatrick’s behaviour.

“I was honestly very convinced that this whole thing was going to be solved internally and that Connor was going to get disciplined and … I would get the support that I needed from the Federation,” he told CBC Sports in an interview.

A disciplinary panel accepted many of the allegations, finding Fitzpatrick’s behaviour, on numerous occasions, amounted to “major infractions” of CKC’s code of conduct.

And though its findings, which CBC Sports has seen, acknowledged Turcanu’s fear for his safety during the incident with the knife, it did not accept that Fitzpatrick “used the knife in a threatening manner.”

Turcanu took his concerns to senior members of the national team. (Submitted by Philipe Turcanu)

Regarding his contact with the woman Turcanu said he had slept with, Fitzpatrick told the panel Turcanu “had established a pattern of lying,” which “included lying about having sex with one of my female friends … so I asked her directly.”

The panel rejected that claim and found Fitzpatrick was trying to embarrass Turcanu. In December, the panel suspended Fitzpatrick for two months, a punishment Turcanu calls a “slap on the wrist.”

It also suspended Turcanu for two months, for surreptitiously recording Dittmer’s failed mediation session.

Turcanu filed an appeal, but eventually dropped it. 

Diagnosed with PTSD

Turcanu says the last few months have been difficult. In January, after being promised a spot to train with the senior men paddlers, he was not invited, meaning his time with Canada’s top paddlers was effectively curtailed. This was part of a pattern of “progressive isolation and lack of support by the CKC,” the lawsuit claims.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick continues to train with the men’s national team. He was recently placed on a men’s national team that will compete in a series of upcoming races.

Turcanu moved to France, where he’s currently training without a country to represent.

“They froze me off the team,” he said. “They didn’t give me any support. They gave me really no other choice but to have to go and try to pursue this in some other way.”

He was recently diagnosed with PTSD that includes flashbacks of Fitzpatrick breaking into his room, according to his statement of claim.

Along with the financial damages, he is also seeking an injunction prohibiting Fitzpatrick from competing at any event in Ontario, where Turcanu has also qualified.

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Kaillie Humphries says she's filed harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada

Kaillie Humphries is breaking her silence about why she isn't competing in bobsleigh this year.

Speaking exclusively to CBC, Humphries revealed she has filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada.

"I found myself in a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn't compete. I filed it before the season and so I can't talk too much about all of the details and how it goes. Currently the investigation is still going on."

Humphries did not reveal what type of harassment she is alleging.

CBC Sports reached out to Bobsleigh Canada for comment, but the organization did not immediately respond.

Stepping away from bobsleigh

At the beginning of October, Humphries took to Twitter, saying she was stepping away from bobsleigh competition for the year. At that time, the three-time Olympic medallist did not provide any details why — she now says it's directly because of the harassment investigation.

"It definitely it took months for me to build up the courage, for me to have that strength, that internal strength to come forward. I'm a strong person," Humphries said.

"But until you've been challenged with this scenario, such as the one that I have found myself in, you never really know how you're going react to it. It took months to build up the courage to be able to talk about it."

This is the first time in Humphries's career she's not competing. She's a two-time Olympic champion and was named the 2014 Lou Marsh Award winner as the top athlete in Canada. She says after every season she takes time to evaluate how the year went. When she started to critically look at last season, she realized something went really wrong.

"I worked very closely with a sports psychologist, somebody who I personally had sought out and who has helped me. I talked to a psychologist every single week [and] we broke down last season," she said.

"I can no longer be silenced because of other people's actions. And I spent all last year doing that without knowing that that's what I was doing. It feels really bad. It feels really wrong. You're not truthful."

'It can happen to anybody'

Humphries says this has been one of the most challenging times in her life, as she continues to train, wondering when she might return to competition at the completion of the investigation. There is no timeline for that to happen at this point. She says she will not return if changes aren't made.

"I will not go back to the same way that it was last year. So if I can build my own team and function independently, still a part of Canada, I will, " she said.  "A lot depends on how the case settles. But I can guarantee you I will not go back to the same way that it was, working with the same people in the same capacity, and open myself up to situations like I faced in the past."

Above all, Humphries says she needed to come forward with this, not only to help rectify her situation, but make it easier for others to come forward as well.

"It can happen to anybody. And that's true. And that was part of my decision for bringing this claim forward," Humphries said. "I'm strong enough to go through this process. I'm strong enough to stand up for what's right."

She's under no illusions about just how big of a step it is to move forward with this harassment case.

"A lot is at stake. For me personally. My entire career is at stake, who I am personally. I'm risking everything to be in this position," she said. "It's not something I take lightly. So yeah, for me personally there's a lot at stake."

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Mariah Carey's Former Assistant Suing the Singer for Wrongful Termination, Sexual Harassment and Battery

Mariah Carey’s former assistant is responding to the pop diva’s recent lawsuit with a lawsuit of her own.

Hours after news broke that Carey had filed a $ 3 million suit against her former executive assistant, Lianna Shakhnazaryan, for violating their non-disclosure agreement, the ex-employee fired back with a lengthy lawsuit of her own, accusing Carey, and her former manager, Stella Bulochnikov, for a litany of alleged claims.

The laundry list of allegations includes wrongful termination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to pay earned wages upon termination, breach of oral contract, rescission of contract, violation of the Bane Act, violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and battery.

According to the lawsuit obtained by ET, Shakhnazaryan claims she began working as Carey’s assistant in September 2015, and allegedly had an oral employment agreement to be paid $ 328,500 annually.

Shakhnazaryan claims in the suit that she was “required to meet constant demands of great magnitude and often on incredibly short time demands,” and that she also served as a personal assistant to Bulochnikov and coordinator between the manager and the singer.

The former personal assistant alleges that she was “subjected to severe, pervasive, sexual, derogatory, offensive, physically abusive and outrageous conduct by [Bulochnikov],” allegedly including being referred to as “a f**king Armenian whore,” among other racially charged insults.

Shakhnazaryan claims she was also subjected to “acts of physical abuse” including the “slapping of [her] buttocks and breasts,” as well as allegedly being tackled to the ground by Bulochnikov and “urinated upon in the presence of others on multiple occasions.”

The documents also accuse Bulochnikov of making repeated offensive sexual and derogatory comments regarding her Armenian heritage, and repeated ridicule directed toward Shakhnazaryan’s physical appearance.

The assistant claims Carey “had knowledge of the [conduct], as much of such improper conduct was carried out against [Shakhnazaryan] with Carey’s knowledge, permission and/or in Carey’s presence.” 

She also alleges that not only Carey but others employed by her witnessed the acts and did nothing to stop or prevent them. Furthermore, Shakhnazaryan claims she directly reported Bulochnikov’s alleged behavior to Carey and was terminated “in direct response” to her complaint.

Shakhnazaryan’s suit ultimately claims that she “suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment” as a result of Bulochnikov’s alleged actions.

Regarding her accusations of battery, the former assistant claims that she was “subjected to aggressive, abusive and harmful physical conduct by Carey… [which was] performed… with the intent to harm and/or offend” Shakhnazaryan, while she was allegedly living at Carey’s home from November 2015 through “the middle of 2017” as required by the terms of her employment.

Shakhnazaryan is seeking compensatory damages “including lost wages, past and future earnings [and] unpaid overtime,” as well as money for “physical injury, mental pain and anguish and severe emotional distress,” along with general damages, attorney’s fees, the cost of the lawsuit, and punitive damages. She is also demanding a trial by jury.

The shocking allegations made in her suit come following Carey’s own lawsuit, in which Shakhnazaryan is accused of being “a grifter, a Peeping Tom and an extortionist.”

Carey’s lawsuit alleges that Shakhnazaryan secretly filmed her without her knowledge or permission, which if revealed would be personally embarrassing and professionally damaging to her. 

Carey’s lawsuit also alleges Shakhnazaryan displayed the intimate videos for her friends and co-workers, then “threatened to release the videos, and other sensitive, private information, unless Mariah provided her $ 8,000,000,” adding that Shakhnazaryan had allegedly been blackmailing the singer.

In a statement to ET, Carey’s rep continued to claim that the allegations and evidence made in the lawsuit is “vast and deplorable.”

“This new year welcomes Mariah’s continued efforts to clean the trash from her life,” the statement reads. “Because her threats and bad acts are too great to be ignored, Mariah has been compelled to file a lawsuit against her. Given that the evidence against this former assistant is vast and deplorable, we anticipate a victorious resolution. Mariah continues her streak of success this year with an upcoming North American tour and return to Vegas.”

Shakhnazaryan’s attorney, Mark Quigley, released a statement to ET on Wednesday, staunchly denying the claims made in Carey’s lawsuit and reiterating accusations leveled by his client.

“These baseless allegations are an attempt to attack my client’s character and deflect attention away from a workplace harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit she filed today against her former employer, Mariah Carey. My client never did anything she wasn’t specifically asked to do while working in the course and scope of her job as a personal assistant. Her lawsuit is about holding her employer accountable for severely inappropriate behavior that caused tremendous stress and emotional turmoil.”

Notably, earlier this month, Carey settled her own high-profile legal battle with Bulochnikov. 

Last April, Bulochnikov filed documents against Carey — approximately five months after being fired by the singer — accusing her of sexual harassment and breach of contract. Carey vehemently denied the claims.

According to court documents obtained by ET, the two parties reached a mutually agreed resolution to the matter, and Bulochnikov agreed to discontinue the action against Carey “with prejudice, with each party to bear its own attorneys’ fees and costs.”


Mariah Carey Sues Former Assistant for Allegedly Violating Non-Disclosure Agreement

Mariah Carey Settles Legal Battle With Ex-Manager Stella Bulochnikov

Johnny Depp Settles $ 25 Million Lawsuit Against The Management Group

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