# Medicine Too


Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario breaks the law to bury testimony transcript in historic #MeToo case

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA, September 21, 2020 / — Dr. Ana Safavi is taking her sexual harassment complaint against a powerful senior doctor all the way to trial. She is the first medical trainee in North America to do so. Dr. Safavi was fired in June from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) after refusing the medical school’s demands to mediate.

She and her witnesses are set to start testifying against the powerful doctor on Thursday. Then last week, in an unprecedented move, the HRTO preemptively sealed the transcript. The average person is denied such special requests, but the HRTO is bending the rules to protect this man's reputation.


Dr. Safavi’s lawyers at Hameed Law have asked a judge to overturn the unconstitutional order. “By law, the transcript must be accessible to the public,” says Mr. Hameed. “With this decision, the HRTO is signalling that one man’s reputation is more important than a transparent justice system.”

A witness to one of the sexual harassment incidents, Mr. Brown, says he's uncomfortable testifying in secret. “What if I’m misquoted by the Tribunal? Shouldn't I be allowed to see the transcript to set the record straight?”

When Dr. Safavi first spoke with the press in February 2018, she had been suspended four days after telling NOSM’s Vice Dean about the sexual harassment. A year later, after she filed in the HRTO, NOSM’s investigator suddenly exonerated the well-connected faculty member — without interviewing him or Dr. Safavi (or her witnesses). At the same time, he stopped supervising trainees, although NOSM hid his resignation from her.

Now, she is warning the public about the crisis unfolding at the HRTO. A secretive tribunal is equally dangerous for victims and the accused, because shielding the government’s activities from public scrutiny may allow corruption to flourish unchecked. “Unlike judges, tribunal adjudicators do not have lifetime appointments,” explains Mr. Hameed. “They must seek reappointment every 2-5 years.”


The new HRTO Chair is former head of law firm Borden Ladner Gervais which is defending NOSM before the HRTO. A corporate lawyer with no human rights or tribunal experience, he departed BLG in June to quietly accept the “urgent” 6-month appointment which was first revealed by the press on a tip from Tribunal Watch Ontario, an organization criticizing the Ford government for letting experienced adjudicators go while stacking the HRTO with patronage appointments.

The Chair can veto appointments and reappointments, so he wields significant power over adjudicators such as the one presiding over Dr. Safavi’s case whose term expires in January. Under the Ford government, reappointments are scarce and no longer tied to performance metrics.


In July, Democracy Watch asked the Courts to declare the Ford government’s new Tribunal reappointment process unconstitutional, in part because eliminating their job security may leave adjudicators vulnerable to influence from higher-ups.

Adjudicators must remain impartial, but their decisions undergo “review”; for high-profile cases like Dr. Safavi’s, the Chair may even review the decision himself. The Courts ruled against such tribunal practices in 2019, but little appears to have changed since.

The day before the HRTO sealed the transcript, Dr. Safavi’s lawyers had asked a judge to revoke the Chair’s appointment (as against the law) and to compel the release of records that the HRTO must disclose to the public, but has not. Some of these records relate to other HRTO cases against NOSM.


Dr. Safavi worries the HRTO won’t even hear all her evidence. The defendant denied meeting with her alone, so she submitted audio recordings of the meetings to disprove his lies. But the HRTO has not acknowledged receipt of the tapes — despite receiving them both electronically and by courier.

“I feel so stupid for putting my trust in the HRTO,” says Dr. Safavi. After she filed her complaint, she began helping others do the same through her organization #MEDICINETOO. “I wanted other trainees to see a way for us to hold medical schools accountable. But how can the HRTO hold institutions accountable, if it won’t even hold itself accountable to the law?”

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Source: EIN Presswire