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65 per cent of LGBTQ+ Quebec employees experienced harassment: survey

The rainbow flag flies over city hall in Montreal, Friday, February 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes The rainbow flag flies over city hall in Montreal, Friday, February 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Sixty-five percent of LGBTQ+ workers in Quebec have experienced workplace harassment in the past five years, according to a Leger Marketing-Fondation Émergence survey released Thursday.

In comparison, 35 per cent of heterosexual and cis-gendered people have experienced harassment during this period.

The most common incidents were discriminatory jokes, intrusive questions or negative or stereotypical comments, taunting, or sexual jokes.

"One manager made the comment that 'LGBTQ+ people should all die,'" said one respondent. "Another said that "male co-workers make fun of other presumably gay co-workers ... openly and with great contempt,' and yet another was herself being bullied, as co-workers imitated her body language and voice in front of her."

At least 5 per cent of LGBTQ+ respondents even testified that they had been threatened, made unwanted advances, given inappropriate physical contact or degrading propositions in exchange for preferential treatment.

Not only that, but 15 per cent of LGBTQ+ people surveyed said they had left their jobs because the environment was not inclusive, and 21 per cent had thought about it.

"As we are currently in a situation where any employee who leaves is a disaster, it may be worth investing in keeping them," noted Fondation Émergence President Patrick Desmarais in a phone interview.

"Of the victims, only one in three reported or filed a complaint," he added. "They are afraid that the organization will not take action."

He said it is important for companies to have "human resources policies that are clear, inclusive, that specifically name people who might be victims of harassment."

He also recommends "training at the time of hiring on LGBTQ+ realities" and having a "zero tolerance for harassment."


Fondation Émergence, which specializes in the fight against homophobia and transphobia, launched an updated training program on Thursday that specifically addresses the issue of psychological and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The new version, produced in partnership with the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ) and with funding from the Commission des normes de l'équité et de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CNESST), is accompanied by a series of explanatory videos.

According to survey respondents, "when there is training, the environment is much more open," said Desmarais. "There are things that people don't realize, but they do realize after training."

As many as 48 per cent of Quebec workers have witnessed sexual or psychological harassment in the past five years. "People see things, but sometimes they don't know how to deal with them' and need tools, he said.

He is not alone in this view, noting that there is "a huge demand for training" and "a lot of interest" on the part of companies.

In addition to general training, "there are organizations that contact LGBT groups such as Fondation Émergence to accompany them in situations where a person wants to transition as a trans person" to "welcome the employee in his or her process and ensure that the workplace is aware of LGBT issues before the announcement that this person is transitioning".

It is also worth noting that, according to the survey, those who have received at least some training feel better equipped on average to cultivate an inclusive and safe workplace or to respond appropriately when issues arise. They are also more likely to be comfortable with the possibility of having a transgender person on their team.

The survey was conducted in November 2021 among 2,002 non-autonomous adult Quebec workers. About one in six, or 14 per cent, identified as LGBTQ+.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 24, 2022, with financial support from the Meta and The Canadian Press News Fellowships. Top Stories

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