Can't Buy My Silence
Non-disclosure agreements are contracts that were created to protect trade secrets but when used wrongly become secret settlement contracts used to buy the silence of a victim or whistleblower. They have become the default solution for organizations, corporations and public bodies to settle cases of sexual misconduct, racism, pregnancy discrimination and other human rights violations.
More than 80 universities in the UK have now signed a Pledge, backed by the Minister of Higher Education and campaign group Can’t Buy My Silence, to stop using NDAs to silence students who report harassment abuse and other misconduct.
“We [our vice-chancellor and higher education provider] commit to not using Non-Disclosure Agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying.”
What Would Banning NDAs Mean for Students at U of M?
- Students bringing complaints would not be required to agree to stay silent about their complaint in order for it to be investigated
- Students resolving complaints would not be required to sign agreements to stay silent forever about what happened to them
- Data collected by campaign group Can’t Buy My Silence and Speak Out Revolution shows that NDAs cause trauma and lasting mental health problems for victims who sign them
- Data also shows
- a disproportionate impact of NDAs being used to silence people POC and
- almost 1/3 of respondents saying they did not make a complaint because they knew they would be asked to sign an NDA
- greater transparency around dealing with complaints of misconduct of all kinds by students, staff and faculty
- encouraging and supporting students to bring complaints forward
- ending the practice of “passing the trash” – passing disgraced staff and faculty to other universities with their history of misconduct hidden in an NDA
How you can get involved
- lobby the University to be the first Canadian university take the Pledge
- help to monitor compliance by reporting alleged breaches of the Pledge to UMSU
- help to disseminate education about the misuse of NDAs and how to recognize one across campus to other students (see for example the resources at https://www.cantbuymysilence.com/uni-pledge)
- Manitoba MLA Dougald Lamont has brought forward Bill 225 in the Manitoba Legislature to address the issue of NDA gags. The bill is now moving to committee. If you would like to speak at committee on this bill, you can contact the Office of the Clerk and ask to be placed on the list to testify at the Committee stage of the Non-Disclosures Agreement Bill (Bill 225).
Speaking At Committee
The date of committee has not yet been set, but Dougald is eager to keep the pressure up and have people call in and say they want to speak to the Committee. The number to call is (204) 945-3636
Here is a possible script for you to use if you are feeling nervous or uncertain about this:
“My name is ……. and I want to testify at the Committee Stage of the Non-Disclosures Agreement Bill (Bill 225). I have personal experience that I wish to share with Committee as they consider this important piece of legislation. I appreciate that no date has yet been set for the Committee hearings, but I would like my name and contact details (provide) to be recorded and to hear from you when the date(s) is fixed.”
The UMSU team has called into (204) 945-3636 and the response was very efficient and polite. they were asked:
- was I a private citizen or speaking on behalf of an organization?
- did I live in Manitoba or out of province and if the latter, what town did I live in?
- would I testify in person, by phone or by Zoom?
- they asked for my phone number and email in order to contact me when the date is set