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ACTRA Toronto vows to do more to protect members in a post-Weinstein world

The Toronto chapter of the national performers union has hired a special advisor to review their own policies around sexual harassment and is coming together with other industry groups at an upcoming round-table to tackle the topic.

Reporting on Harvey Weinstein has brought sexual assault and sexual harassment to the forefront.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Reporting on Harvey Weinstein has brought sexual assault and sexual harassment to the forefront.

Flooded with calls after recent reporting on sexual harassment allegations against industry titans Harvey Weinstein and James Toback, the Toronto chapter of the union that represents English language actors in Canada is resolving to do more to protect its members against predators.

"No matter what we've been doing, and we've been doing a lot of really good things in this area, for a number of years, it's not good enough," Theresa Tova, president of Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) Toronto told Metro.

Tova said the calls "don't stop," naming everyone from Weinstein and Toback to "a myriad of other names in very, very surprising spaces."

"They're preying on young 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds who don't have careers yet, they're not preying on Meryl Streep," she added.

The ACTRA Toronto, which represents more than 15,000 Canadian performers, has hired a special advisor to review their own policies, practices and training on harassment. If someone has a complaint against a fellow member they can file a grievance, but it gets trickier when the complaint is against someone outside of that union, like a director or producer.

To try to address that Tova said there will be an upcoming industry-wide round-table to come up with an action plan in early November, and she's been holding focus groups with her own members to inform it.

"No guild, no actor, no agent can solve this on their own," she said.

"It is throughout society, it is throughout our industry, and we need help with processes that actually protect all of our members."

Miramax producer Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women stretching back decades. Hundreds of women, including actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams, have alleged inappropriate sexual encounters with Tobak, an Oscar nominated director.

On social media thousands of women and some men, have spoken out about past experiences with sexual harassment and assault using #metoo, and allegations about dozens of high profile men across industries have surfaced in the last few weeks.

Barb MacQuarrie, community director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children at Western University said it's encouraging to see the industry coming together, as people targeted for harassment are often isolated.

But what's needed is a cultural change that starts with leaders speaking up, beyond just hashtags and survivors coming forward.

"I don't believe that we can effectively address this problem, prevent it, eliminate it, by relying on victims to speak out, and I don't think that's fair," she said.

Temporary workers on film sets and the myriad of different organizations involved add a "layer of complexity," when it comes to having clear channels for reporting and investigation complaints in the entertainment industry, she said.

"But it's not a reason for avoiding responsibility."

may.warren@metronews.ca

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