Death threats. Racist taunts. Vows of violence. Inside the increasingly personal attacks targeting Canadian female journalists, some journalists say they are struggling to keep calm as they try to protect their families and their jobs and remain committed to the values that define their profession. Their detractors say violence is inevitable and their job is to hold the powerful accountable.
For a majority of the women contacted by CBC News in the past month, their job is to cover breaking stories of harassment and assault that affect Canadians.
The stories they’ve covered have ranged from harassment against Indigenous women in the Northwest Territories to the sexual harassment allegations against the owner of CBC Halifax in May, as well as the recent attacks on CBC’s own Ottawa bureau chief. Some journalists have told CBC News they are working without pay while they deal with allegations of sexual assault and violence, while others have opted to flee their jobs and are living in separate rooms after being accused of sexual harassment.
Tanya Talaga, a journalist, radio personality, activist, writer and director, was among those who had their stories told. “I was the victim of a very brutal sexual assault and I don’t even know where to begin to say how grateful I am for the support I got and how much it meant to me,” said Talaga.
Talaga, who was 28 when she was assaulted, said she has been living with post-traumatic stress disorder ever since, and she has struggled to return to work. The trauma of being assaulted and the shame of being named as a suspect in the case prompted her to leave her job at CBC and start a new life in the United States, she told CBC News.
Talaga said she plans to focus more on activism and her writing, but she still has nightmares, flashbacks, and blackouts associated with the assault.
She told CBC News she was left with bruises on her face and hands, that she still has nightmares, and that the attack left her feeling guilty about herself, that she is a failure and a victim, and that nothing could ever make it better.
For other journalists, their stories have touched upon the same topics: being the target of racist taunts from crowds at Canada Day celebrations, their stories of being pressured at work to have sex and the sexual harassment accusations made against former CBC Radio Ottawa host Rick Mercer, and